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Election 2004: The Real Polls On The Ground

34 Key Ridings
Beryl P. Wajsman 24 May 2004


As we head into a new Federal Election one can be forgiven for feeling confused concerning all the recent polls. We have heard regularly conflicting analyses of the same numbers over and over again. One day 39% is a Liberal majority, the next barely a minority. To give all of you a realistic picture of how the final results will shape up, and to allow you some fun in following the campaign, we have produced this report analyzing the key races riding by riding. The united right has created a new political reality. But that reality will be manifested on the ground, not in the clever wording or ordering of a pollster's questions.


Some facts are important to keep in mind as you read on.


  • Only in 1974 have the Federal Liberals increased their percentage of popular support from pre-election numbers to those on election day. In every other recent election they have fallen 3-5% off their highs.
  • In the 2000 Election the Chrétien Liberals stood at 48% before the election was called and won their majority with 43% of the popular vote.
  • The unpopularity of the Provincial Liberals in Quebec combined with the rejection by Quebecers of Prime Minister Martin's perceived one-sided handling of the sponsorship investigation, responses on his own possible corporate conflicts-of-interest, and weak performance on the "democratic" deficit promises, have given the Bloc Québécois a probable lock on Québec.
  • Similar public reactions in British Columbia, combined with resentment over parachuted candidates, have made faint the possibility of important Liberal gains.
  • With the Conservatives maintaining their stronghold in the West, the battlegrounds appear to be Ontario and Atlantic Canada.
  • It is debatable whether Conservative voters in the Maritimes, who have a strong tradition of "Red Tory" leaders such as Premier Richard Hatfield and Dalton Camp, will swing en masse to the new Conservative party. However, Atlantic Canada's reaction to Martin's new UIC policies on seasonal employment is yet to be gauged. We will see if they are the right tonic or judged too little too late.
  • The real question that will decide this election is what will happen in Ontario. Up until Liberal Premier Dalton McGuinty's unexpected and unpopular tax hikes in his recent budget, Federal Liberal support in Ontario stood at 47-49%. The drop in the past week has been nothing short of spectacular falling to as low as 38% in some polls.
  • Undoubtedly these numbers will rise. But as Tip O'Neill once said, all politics are local. And it looks like reaction to local issues will decide this election as much as national ones.
  • In the last election 43 Ontario ridings had right-wing majorities when the Alliance-Tory vote was combined. These will be the crucial seats to watch. Many of these ridings are represented by Liberal Cabinet Ministers. As you watch the next five weeks unfold keep your eyes on these races. The following is a review of the most important contests in Ontario and throughout the country.

This is the real story...on the ground...riding by riding…not in the polls.




Leeds-Grenville (Ont.)


Joe Jordan won this seat last time out with 18,177 votes but with only 55 votes over his closest challenger. The combined Alliance/Tory (A/T) vote was 22,817. This is a key race because Jordan is a high-profile Liberal who served as Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister until last year. His strength will be a key gauge of Liberal support particularly in Ontario’s Eastern rural ridings where the Conservatives have claimed broad support.


Niagara West-Glanbrooke (Ont.)-(was Stoney Creek)


This was the riding represented by Transport Minister Tony Valeri. He did not want to run here again and went after, and won, Sheila Copps redistributed seat in a bitter and divisive fight. The numbers tell the tale. The combined A/T vote in the last election was 4,932 more than the Liberals got.


Nepean-Carleton (Ont.)


This Ottawa area seat will be critical for the Liberals to hold. The MP is Defense Minister David Pratt. Weakness here, with such  a high profile and well-respected Minister in place, would not bode well. In the 2000 Election the Liberal vote total was 21,260. The A/T stood at 26,157.


Elgin-Middlesex-London (Ont.)


Another respected Minister, Gar Knutson, represents this south-central Ontario riding. Mr. Knutson’s portfolio of New and Emerging Markets will seem tame compared to the prospect of overcoming a 4,696 voter advantage for the A/T from the last election.


Wellington-Halton Hills (Ont.)


This is a new riding formed out of re-distribution. The old riding was Guelph-Wellington held by  former Ontario caucus chair Brenda Chamberlain. She has chosen to run in the new riding of Guelph which covers the city area. Wellington-Halton Hills had an A/T advantage of 3,229 votes last time out.


Ottawa West-Nepean (Ont.)


Another high profile Liberal, former whip Marlene Catterall, faces the prospect of beating back a 2,564 A/T vote advantage to retain her seat.


Ottawa-Centre (Ont.)


What should have been a cakewalk for Martin advisor Richard Mahoney, in his bid to succeed long-time Liberal MP Mac Harb, has turned into a battle of titans with the entry of former NDP leader Ed Broadbent into the race. Popular radio personality Lowell Green turned down an invitation from the Conservatives to run saying Broadbent was unbeatable. This is a race to watch.


Prince Edward-Hastings (Ont.).


This seat was held by former Agriculture Minister Lyle Vanclief. He is not running this time around and the Liberals will have to beat back a 1,895 A/T voter advantage from the last election.


Thunder Bay-Rainy River (Ont.)


Long-time Thunder Bay-Atikokan Liberal MP Stan Dromisky is retiring and the Liberals will have to overcome a 1,634 A/T vote advantage in this revamped riding.


York Simcoe (Ont.)


This is a new riding comprised from portions of the Liberal-held ridings of Barrie-Simcoe-Bradford and York North. Barrie-Simcoe MP Aileen Carroll will be running in the neighbouring riding of Barrie. York North MP Karen Kraft Sloan is retiring. Results from the 200 Election indicate a 1,500 vote advantage for the Conservatives.


Haldimand-Norfolk (Ont.)


Agriculture Minister Bob Speller is running for re-election. The A/T advantage last time out was 1,063 votes.


St. Catherines (Ont.)


Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Public Works Walt Lastewka will be fighting to beat back a 1,539 vote threat from the last election.


Simcoe-Grey (Ont.)


Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Human Resources Paul Bonwick has a similar 2,013 A/T vote advantage to overcome.


Toronto-Danforth (Ont.)


Popular long-time Liberal MP Dennis Mills, who started his political career in the Trudeau PMO, has a serious challenge to overcome from NDP leader Jack Layton. To add to the “bagarre”, Green Party leader Jim Harris is also running here. Layton has declared that “Losing here is not an option.”


Trinity-Spadina (Ont.)


Another fight to the finish. Layton’s wife, high-profile city councillor Olivia Chow, is taking on able Liberal MP Tony Ianno, Chair of the Special House Committee on Seniors.





Abitibi-Témiscaminque (Qué.)


Long-time Bloc riding that  was won by the Liberals in a by-election last year. Bloc MP Pierre Brien, who had held the riding, left to join the ADQ in last year’s Quebec Provincial election. It will be an important one for the Liberals to hold. The 56% majority they won with last year should be enough.


Beauharnois-Salaberry (Qué.)


High profile Liberal Serge Marcil beat Bloc heavyweight Daniel Turp in the 2000 election. Much of his support was based on a Federal commitment on Highway 30. That has yet to be finalized. This is one to watch.


 Gaspésie-Iles-de-la-Madeleine (Qué.)


Former Provincial Minister and current Liberal MP Georges Farrah is facing a tough fight after his last narrow victory. The electorate is particularly fragile because of disaffection with Federal government UIC policies on seasonal employment.


Jonquière-Alma (Qué.)


Normally a Bloc bastion, this riding has been hit by BQ fratricide between Sébastien Gagnon and Jocelyne Girard-Bujold, and Liberal Daniel Giguère, former Mayor of Jonquière, may run right through the middle and win the day.


Louis-Hébert (Qué.)


Heritage Minister Hélène Scherrer, co-Chair of the National Liberal campaign, is taking nothing for granted. Though she won the seat by 2500 votes in the last Election, it was won by the Bloc in 1997, and she is facing a stiff challenge from former CBC journalist Roger Clavet running for the BQ.


Richmond-Arthabaska (Qué.)


The lone Tory seat in Québec was held by popular MP André Bachand. He did not like the Tory-Alliance merger and retired from politics. It is a tough three-way race and if the Liberals are going to make headroom in Québec it has to start here.


Saint-Maurice-Champlain (Qué.)


Prime Minister Chrétien’s old seat. A lot of bad blood as Martinites refused to allow former PMO Communications director Steven Hogue, who had signed up over a thousand members, to run. It will be interesting to see if this has any effect in the election.


Sherbrooke (Qué.)


The Liberals haven’t won here since the riding went Tory to Jean Charest in 1984. The Bloc took the seat in 1998 and Serge Cardin strengthened his majority to 2,377 in the 2000 Election. Though the Liberals are running a star candidate in Sherbrooke, University rector Bruno-Marie Béchard, they will have to overcome a nationalist streak here as they also need to do in Richmond. In the last provincial election Béchard himself supported the Parti Québecois.



Cardigan (P.E.I.)


Another high-profile race. Former Solicitor-General Lawrence MacAulay is running for re-election in a seat which had an A/T advantage last time out.


West Nova (N.S.)


Popular former Fisheries Minister Robert Thibault will be looking to turn back an 8,500 A/T voter advantage from the last election. Given Thibault’s personal popularity this will be a key race to gauge Liberal fortunes in Atlantic Canada.


 Kings-Hant (N.S.)


Another key Atlantic riding where it will be interesting to see if MP Scott Brison can maintain his personal popularity after switching from the Tories to the Liberals. Prime Minister Martin has a lot of his credibility riding in this race as Brison is perceived as being personally close to him. The race is interesting for historical reasons as well in that the Annapolis Valley is a Tory stronghold and has gone Liberal only once since 1948. Yet thirteen members of the old PC riding executive crossed to the Liberals with Mr. Brison.


Fredericton (N.B.)


Minister of State for Infrastructure Andy Scott faces an uphill battle for re-election against a 6,787 A/T vote superiority in this crucial Maritime seat.


Saint John (N.B.)


With the retirement of veteran Tory MP, and former Mayor, Elsie Wayne, newcomer Bob McVicar faces off against veteran Liberal candidate Paul Zed. Zed’s wife I a grand-daughter of K.C. Irving.




Charleswood-St.James (Man.)


Parliamentary Secretary for International Trade John Harvard was made Lieut.-Gov. of Manitoba to make way for Winnipeg Mayor Glen Murray to carry the Liberal colors. However, this redistricted riding has a 7,752 A/T  superiority based on the 2000 Election statistics. With so much riding on Murray’s candidacy, this is a must win for the Liberals.


Winnipeg North (Man.)


Redistribution has set Western Economic Diversification Minister Rey Pagtakhan on an uphill fight against popular NDP MP Judy Wasylycia-Leis…on NDP turf.


Edmonton Centre (Alta.)


This recently redrawn riding is held by Deputy Prime Minister Anne McLellan. She is hoping for her fourth victory. But it won’t be easy. In 1993 she won by just 12 votes. In 1997 by 1410. But in 2000 that dropped to just 733 and the combined A/T vote total was 3,369 more than the Liberals.


Burnaby-Douglas (B.C.)


Former NDP MP Svend Robinson held this seat for some 25 years. However, the A/T vote total in the last election was 1,306 more than the NDP and some 6,000 more than the Liberals. Add to the numbers game the fact that the entire Liberal executive resigned over the parachuting of Bill Cunningham as Prime Minister Martin’s handpicked candidate.


Vancouver Quadra (B.C.)


Prime Minister Turner’s old seat is now held by Public Work Minister Stephen Owen. The high-profile Mr. Owen is a must win for the Liberals. However it must be noted that though he won his seat by some 3600 votes last time out, the combined A/T vote would make this race a dead heat.


Esquimalt-Juan de Fuca (B.C.)


Former Alliance MP Keith Martin was elected three times under the old colors. He left to sir as an independent and is trying to hold this seat as a Liberal. If the Liberals are to make any gains in B.C. it will have to start here.








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