While there are 338 ridings in Canada, only a smaller number of ridings are truly competitive and up for grabs. While many projections are coming over the next few months, any outcome is possible. However, current polls would suggest we could be headed towards a close election with a minority government headed by either the Liberals or the Conservatives.
This election will likely be decided in the trenches and won or lost in a few key ridings. When the polls are as close as they are, a significant swath of seats could be in play. Hill+Knowlton Strategies will be doing public opinion research in a selection of key races that will help us to better determine how the race is trending.
Beyond the national trend, some ridings will be interesting to watch because they include high profile personalities or important local factors that could make the difference in swinging a particular seat. Here are ten ridings that we will be keeping an eye on.
1. Beauce (Quebec) – Is Beauce Mad About Max?
While Beauce has been a Conservative riding since Maxime Bernier won it in 2006, the question in 2019 is going to be, “is this a Bernier riding or a Conservative riding?” Andrew Scheer has named Richard Lehoux the former president of an association of Quebec municipalities and Saint-Elzear’s long-time mayor, as the Conservative candidate.
Scheer has made very public his courting of the supply management vote resulting in great success, including winning Beauce over Bernier in the 2017 Conservative Leadership contest. Maxime Bernier hopes to keep his People’s Party relevant beyond the 2019 election and his best chance to do so is by winning his own seat. A victory in Beauce will show Canada that his message can resonate and that he will continue to be a thorn in the side of the CPC well into the future.
2. Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie (Quebec) – The NDP’s Quebec Last Stand
Seat projections by 338 Canada, have the NDP leading in only one seat in Quebec, the Montreal riding of Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie which has been held since 2011 by NDP MP Alexandre Boulerice. If the NDP have any hope of keeping a presence in Quebec, they need to save Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie or they run the risk of returning to the pre-Orange Crush era where the NDP had little to no representation from Quebec. Québec Solidaire, a socialist/sovereigntist party on the provincial level, has made significant gains in the corresponding provincial ridings but will the NDP be able to count on that support? If they fail to win Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie it probably means they will be shut out of Quebec and the successes in the province under Jack Layton will be a distant memory.
3. Vancouver Granville (British Columbia) – Does Jody have a chance?
While Jane Philpott and Jody Wilson-Raybould are both running as independents, between the two of them, Wilson-Raybould has the most realistic chance of overcoming the odds and returning to Ottawa. A major fear the Liberals have is that her independent run could take away enough votes from their Liberal candidate, Taleeb Noormohamed, to give the riding to the NDP who are hoping discontent with the Liberals and the opposition to the TMX pipeline expansion could see them squeak out a victory. While the Conservatives would have won the seat in 2011 under the 2015 borders, it is unlikely that they have any real chance of picking up the seat. For the Conservatives, their focus is on the suburban Lower Mainland surrounding Vancouver.
Vancouver-Granville will also be one of the few ridings in the country that could have national implications. The Liberals are hoping Jody Wilson-Raybould remains only a local issue but will have serious concerns for their re-election chances not just in Vancouver-Granville but across the country if she features prominently and consistently in national media coverage.
4. Burlington (Ontario) – A Conservative Beachhead
Burlington is a classic swing riding going with the governing party since the Mulroney era. The riding, however, trends more Conservative than Liberal with the provincial Progressive Conservatives holding the seat every election aside from 2014. Liberal Cabinet Minister Karina Gould won the seat in 2015 by just under 2,500 votes over Conservative Mike Wallace. While Wallace isn’t on the ballot in 2019, the Conservatives see the Halton region (Oakville, Burlington, Oakville-North Burlington) as an area they need to take back if they have any chance of winning a plurality of seats. For the Conservative Party, Burlington is the beachhead for more significant gains in the 905 and Toronto. If they can’t win in Burlington, they will probably be shutout of Mississauga and Brampton.
5. Regina-Wascana (Saskatchewan) – Will Western Alienation wash away a long-time Liberal?
The Trudeau Liberals made historic breakthroughs in the West in 2015. They picked up seats in British Columbia, Alberta, Manitoba and held Ralph Goodale’s long-time seat of Regina-Wascana which he held for the entire Chrétien, Martin and Harper eras. There are now concerns coming out of Saskatchewan that after a long four years of battles over natural resources and the carbon tax, Goodale’s seat may be vulnerable. The Conservatives are feeling optimistic about their chances and see this election as their best chance to take out Goodale. Western-based third-party groups are also targeting the seat. Could this race be the embodiment of a wave of western alienation? If Ralph loses, prairie Liberals outside of a few downtown seats in Winnipeg might become extinct.
6. Edmonton Wood Mills (Alberta) – Dead Man Walking?
While Edmonton Centre currently held by Randy Boissonnault is probably the Liberals’ best chance of keeping a seat in Alberta, Edmonton Mill Woods is the most interesting. Amarjeet Sohi, the current Minister of Natural Resources, is hoping he can fend off his 2015 opponent and Harper-era Cabinet Minister, Tim Uppal, from taking back the riding. Sohi won by one of the smallest margins in the country in 2015; only 79 votes. Sohi is hoping, however, that he can win re-election and show that contrary to what Andrew Scheer and Jason Kenny say, Trudeau’s climate and natural resource policies have support in Alberta.
7. Edmonton Strathcona (Alberta)– Orange Crushed?
Throughout the Harper era, Alberta was a sea of blue, with one small dot of orange in Edmonton. NDP Linda Duncan won the seat of Edmonton-Strathcona for the NDP in 2008 ending a streak of 11 straight conservative victories. Jagmeet Singh’s brand of NDP, however, has not had much success in the prairies. In 2019, Duncan will no longer be on the ballot and the question will be whether the NDP, who have performed strongly in the corresponding provincial ridings, can keep their lone Alberta seat or will the Conservatives get their Alberta clean sweep Duncan for so long prevented them from achieving.
8. St. Johns East (Newfoundland and Labrador) – The return of Jack Harris
Well-respected former NDP MP Jack Harris will attempt to win back his former seat of St. John’s East. Harris held the riding from 2008-2015 and previously served as leader of the provincial NDP from 1992-2006. Harris is hoping to knock off Liberal MP Nick Whalen who bested Harris by only 600 votes in 2015. Liberals have expressed concern that Whalen is vulnerable and the NDP feel St. Johns East might offer their best chance to win a seat in Atlantic Canada, an area they were shut out of in 2015.
9. Trois-Rivières (Quebec) – Could a star Conservative stand out in a crowded 4-way race?
The NDP are vulnerable in Quebec and the riding of Trois-Rivières looks to be a seat they won’t be able to hold onto. The question is, who is going to take it from them? In 2015 the Liberals finished less than a thousand votes behind incumbent NDP MP Robert Aubin. The Conservatives finished 13 per cent back but are optimistic because of their star candidate, Yves Lévesque, the long-time mayor of Trois-Rivières may have a chance to flip the seat blue. Even the Bloc expect to be competitive (where they are likely to run well-known union leader, Louise Chabot) making a Trois-Rivières one of the few truly four-way races in the country.
10. Charleswood–St. James–Assiniboia–Headingley (Manitoba) – People Party playing spoiler
Charleswood–St. James–Assiniboia–Headingley is one riding where vote-splitting could be a major factor. Liberal Doug Eyolfson won the seat in 2015, continuing a long tradition of the seat going with the government of the day. Since Maxime Bernier left the Conservative fold and set up the People’s Party, Liberal partisans have salivated at the prospect of Bernier’s party siphoning enough support away from Conservative candidates to allow the Liberals to win in close races. Aside from Bernier’s own riding of Beauce, this Manitoba riding is one of the few seats where the PPC have any realistic chance of doing well. Steven Fletcher, a former Harper-era cabinet Minister and provincial MLA is running under the PPC banner. While it will be incredibly difficult for Fletcher to take back his former seat if he does take any significant number of votes away from the Conservative candidate, both the CPC and PPC could end up watching Eyolfson make his way back to Ottawa.
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