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Will Peterborough–Kawartha maintain decades-long status as federal bellwether riding?

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WATCH: Historically, the Peterborough–Kawartha riding has predicted the winner of the federal election – Aug 17, 2021

Not sure which party will form the federal government on election night? With its impeccable track record, look no further than the results in the Ontario riding of Peterborough–Kawartha for an answer.

That’s because since 1965, a candidate elected in Peterborough–Kawartha has been a member of the party that has formed the federal government. The only exception to the streak was in 1980 when the Liberal Party, led by Pierre Trudeau, won a majority.

Prior to the 2015 election, the riding was simply known as “Peterborough.”

Read more: 1 in 8 Canadians are undecided about the election. Here’s what they have to say

David Shenin, a professor and political analyst at Trent University in Peterborough says the riding is a “great predictor” of the outcome of a federal election, making it one of the last remaining bellwether ridings in Canada.

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“Whoever gets elected here is somewhat likely to be part of the government. And that has gone on for the Conservatives and Liberals,” he said.

According to the 2016 census, the region has a population of 121,721, encompassing the city (population of 82,094 in 2016) and surrounded by rural townships and Curve Lake First Nation.

Shenin says the Peterborough area has been “representative of Canada” for decades.

“It has an urban component, a rural component; it has had an industrial component, a farming component,” he said. “And as industry became less significant, it also reflected many parts of Canada as well, in that regard,” he said, “in that tourism, the service sector became more important.”

Key issues for the riding include COVID-19 recovery, affordable housing and the opioid crisis.

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Shenin believes the pandemic will be a critical issue among local voters, and as a result, the election is Liberal candidate Maryam Monsef’s to lose. Monsef has served two consecutive terms as a Liberal MP after she was first elected in 2015 and re-elected in 2019. In both elections, she defeated Conservative candidate Michael Skinner. She is currently the Minister for Women and Gender Equality and Rural Economic Development.

“She’s been part of the government that has shepherded the country through the pandemic,” said Shenin. “And that’s really the issue at stake. It’s all about whether people are happy with (the Liberal pandemic response) or not.”

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Shenin cautions the riding today doesn’t necessarily reflect Canada as a whole as it once did, since demographics are shifting.

According to the 2016 census, the median age of residents in the city is 43. There were 4,475 people recognized as visible minorities — or roughly 5.5 per cent of the population.

“Our population is aging much faster than most ridings in Canada,” said Shenin. “Peterborough has also not diversified racially or ethnically as fast as some other ridings.”

Monsef faces five other candidates on election night on Sept. 20:

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  • Conservative Party: Michelle Ferreri, who runs a social media marketing company and was a former TV anchor/host with CHEX Television in the city before leaving in 2014 (Global News acquired the station in 2017)
  • NDP: Joy Lachica, a teacher actively involved with the Elementary Teachers of Ontario
  • Green Party: Chanté White, a Trent University graduate with a degree in environmental studies
  • People’s Party of Canada: Paul Lawton, who works in client services. He moved to Peterborough from Mississauga to attend Trent University in 2003 and stayed
  • Independent: Bob Bowers, running as an independent for his eighth federal election.

Costly comment?

In a poll conducted Sept. 1 on ipolitics with 291 respondents, 40 per cent of respondents said they would vote for Ferreri if the election was held today. Monsef trailed with 27 per cent of the vote.

Lachica garnered 19 per cent in the poll conducting by Mainstreet Research while White received nine per cent, Lawton had four per cent and Bowers earned one per cent.

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The poll came after Monsef, during a media conference on Aug. 25, called the Taliban “our brothers,” however, when asked about the comment, she said it was a “cultural reference” and she called the Taliban a “terrorist organization” as they took control of Afghanistan.

“The Taliban are a terrorist group and yet they claim to be Muslims,” she said. “The reference to brothers is a cultural reference of course but let me be very clear, we do not support the Taliban, we are horrified the hard-won gains of the past 20 years are at stake.”

Read more: Maryam Monsef called the Taliban ‘brothers.’ Here’s what you need to know

Ferreri has come under fire after a video surfaced of her expressing her confusion about the political process after Ontario MPP Roman Barber was kicked out by the Progressive Conservatives. The York Centre MPP was booted from the party after he called Ontario’s lockdown deadlier than the pandemic. Ferrier’s video came three weeks before she announced her intentions to seek the federal nomination.

“If I were you Roman, stick to your own party because everyone has a lot of rules,” she said.

Bellwether riding results

Since 1965, election results in Peterborough–Kawartha have matched the government in power — with the exception of the 1980 election.

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Liberal MP Hugh Faulker

  • 1965-1968
  • 1968-1972
  • 1972-1974
  • 1974-1979

Progressive Conservative MP Bill Domm

  • 1979-1980
  • 1980-1984 – the Liberals led by Pierre Trudeau won a majority 
  • 1984-1988
  • 1988-1993

Liberal MP Peter Adams

  • 1993-1997
  • 1997-2000
  • 2000-2004
  • 2004-2006

Conservative MP Dean Del Mastro

  • 2008-2011
  • 2011-2013
  • 2013-2014 (independent Conservative)

Liberal MP Maryam Monsef

  • 2015-2019
  • 2019-2021

— With files from Katrina Squazzin, Global News Peterborough

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