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Ridings to watch: Parties vie for ‘vulnerable’ NDP seats in Quebec

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The province of Quebec has proven to be volatile territory in federal elections — and the political campaign in 2019 isn’t shaping up to be any different, experts say.

“I think that the most important factor is the decline of the NDP and a real possibility that they might lose all or the vast majority of their seats in Quebec,” said Daniel Béland, director of the McGill Institute for the Study of Canada.

WATCH (Sept. 17, 2019): Quebec premier unveils his federal election wish list
Quebec premier unveils his federal election wish list
Quebec premier unveils his federal election wish list

The Liberals, the Conservative Party and sovereigntist Bloc Québécois are all hungry for a slice of the pie, Béland said.

The professor of political science said the Liberals are looking to hold their ground in Quebec and even stake out some more, while the Conservatives and the Bloc — whose standing in the polls have improved — are fighting “neck-and-neck” to recover some territory.

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Quebec has 78 ridings in total but the ones to watch in 2019 are those held by the NDP going into the campaign, particularly where the incumbents are not running for reelection, Béland said.

“I think that they are all vulnerable.”

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With that in mind, here’s three ridings to watch in Quebec during the 2019 federal election:

Laurier—Sainte-Marie

Laurier—Sainte-Marie on the island of Montreal is one of those NDP ridings in play.

Two-term NDP MP Hélène Laverdière announced she wouldn’t run for reelection in what used to be solid Bloc Québécois territory. Laverdière actually unseated the former Bloc leader, Gilles Duceppe, in the 2011 orange wave, ending his nearly 20-year streak in the House of Commons.

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Laverdière didn’t win with a strong majority in the 2011 or 2015 elections so it’s in no way certain that Laurier-Sainte-Marie will remain orange. The riding will likely be a Liberal-Bloc battleground in the 2019 campaign, Béland said.

“The Bloc of course is energized because they are actually doing better in the polls now with [Yves-François] Blanchet as their leader,” he said.

“I think that they are becoming more and more optimistic about growing their number of seats and this seat of course is special in the heart of Bloc supporters.

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“But [Steven] Guilbeault, the Liberal candidate, is a well-known figure in Quebec and I think that the Liberals hope to have him win in that specific riding.”
WATCH (June 21, 2019): Steven Guilbeault to run for federal Liberals
Steven Guilbeault to run for federal Liberals
Steven Guilbeault to run for federal Liberals

Guilbeault is the co-founder of Équiterre and a former Greenpeace director. The Bloc candidate is novelist and broadcast producer Michel Duchesne.

Trois-Rivières

In Trois-Rivières, it’s shaping up to be a fight between the Liberals and the Conservatives to push out two-term NDP incumbent Robert Aubin.

Béland — who named Trois-Rivières among his ‘ridings to watch’ — said Aubin’s standing in the polls is “relatively low” right now.

WATCH (Sept. 11, 2019): ‘We are going to surprise people’ — Scheer on Tories’ prospects of picking up seats in Quebec
‘We are going to surprise people’ Scheer on Tories’ prospects of picking up seats in Quebec
‘We are going to surprise people’ Scheer on Tories’ prospects of picking up seats in Quebec

The Conservatives recruited a well-known face in Yves Lévesque, who was the city’s mayor from 2001 to 2018, and Tory Leader Andrew Scheer made Trois-Rivières his first stop on the campaign trail after the writ dropped, suggesting the riding is high on the party’s priority list.

The Liberals, meantime, have placed their hopes in city councillor Valérie Renaud-Martin.

The outcome in a riding with this kind of dynamic is anyone’s guess, Béland said.

I think that each riding is really, really different,” Béland said. “In some places you have a race between three or four parties so it’s very hard to know who will win.”

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Louis-Hébert

The Quebec City riding of Louis-Hébert is an example of an electoral district that could easily be anyone’s to take in this campaign.

No incumbent in Louis-Hébert has won a second term since 1993. Right now, it’s held by Liberal MP Joël Lightbound, who made a name for himself as parliamentary secretary to the minister of finance and was thrust into the spotlight when a shooter killed six men in a mosque in the riding.

Lightbound is seeking reelection. He’s up against high-profile Conservative candidate Marie-Josée Guérette, a senior executive at La Capitale Financial Group. Meanwhile, Jérémie Juneau is running for the NDP, Macarena Diab for the Greens, Christian Hébert for the Bloc and Daniel Brisson for the People’s Party.

WATCH (Sept. 17, 2019): Ipsos Quebec poll
Ipsos Quebec poll
Ipsos Quebec poll

Louis-Hébert is one of six ridings in the Quebec City area; the Liberals won two in 2015. The riding is otherwise surrounded by Conservative-held ridings.

At the moment, Louis-Hébert is “too close to call,” according to seat projections released by the Laurier Institute for the Study of Public Opinion and Policy (LISPOP) on Tuesday, based on a series of polls released between Sept. 26-30.

An Ipsos poll conducted for Global News suggested that Quebec had the highest number of undecided voters of all the provinces.

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The largest numbers of undecided voters in Canada live in the vote-rich provinces of Ontario and Quebec, according to an Ipsos poll conducted exclusively for Global News.
The largest numbers of undecided voters in Canada live in the vote-rich provinces of Ontario and Quebec, according to an Ipsos poll conducted exclusively for Global News. Global News

Quebec is “a real wildcard,” according to Nelson Wiseman, a professor of political science at the University of Toronto and directory of the school’s Canadian studies program.

“They’ll have to make a calculation at the end,” Wiseman told Global News.

“Do they want to be at the table with the winning party, if it’s clear which party is going to win, or do they want to have leverage in Parliament as a party holding the balance of power, in which case they’ll vote Bloc Québécois.”