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Election 2021: The ridings we’re watching in the provinces where the vote will be won or lost – Quebec, Ontario and British Columbia

In this final edition of MV Spotlight, our Jonathan Kalles, Jeff Rutledge and Marcella Munro weigh in on key ridings to watch as election 44 unfolds later this evening:

Quebec – Jonathan Kalles

In the past week, we’ve seen some movement in the polls in Quebec, as voters’ attention focused on Premier François Legault’s calls to avoid voting for the Liberals (and NDP and Greens) in the aftermath of the English Leaders’ Debate, when the entire National Assembly and most Quebec media panned a question perceived as an attack on Quebec language and secularism laws.

Premier Legault’s not-so-cryptic support for the Conservatives has not seemed to move the needle for them. But the Bloc had been searching for a wedge issue to push the narrative that they are the only defenders of Quebec interests and values, and the aftermath of the English debate has seemingly had a positive impact on their support. The question is how much.

A strong uptick for the Bloc would probably hurt both the Conservatives and Liberals; a smaller increase would most likely just bring them back to their levels in 2019, and would probably not flip many seats.

If the Bloc has a mild increase coupled with a mild increase for the Conservatives, it may help the Liberals to keep some tight ridings where the fight is with the Bloc, and help in a few three-way races too.

Quebec and Gaspésie–Les Îles-de-la-Madeleine :

Liberal Ministers Jean-Yves Duclos and Diane Lebouthillier won their seats over the Bloc by a respective 325 and 637 votes in 2019. Even a minor increase in the Bloc’s overall vote share could tilt both ridings in their favour. Both incumbents won in 2019 with smaller margins than in 2015, and with the NDP vote mostly collapsing in Quebec, the Bloc’s only competition for votes is the Liberals.

Hochelaga:

This is the most vulnerable Liberal riding on the island of Montreal. In 2019, Liberal incumbent Soraya Martinez won her seat by only 328 votes over the Bloc, in a riding where the NDP also managed to garner over 11,000 votes. With the NDP vote expected to decrease, there are a lot of votes for the Bloc and Liberals to fight over. It should be noted that this was a mild upset in 2019, as the Liberals had not won the riding since the 1980s.

Châteauguay—Lacolle:

Liberal Brenda Shanahan won by 639 votes over the Bloc in 2019. This South Shore of Montreal riding is a target of the Bloc and should remain very close. The seat, along with nearby ridings including Longueuil–Charles-LeMoyne, and Bloc-held Longueuil–Saint-Hubert and La Prairie will likely be one of the main battlegrounds between the Bloc and the Liberals.

Chicoutimi-Le Fjord:

Conservative Quebec Lieutenant Richard Martel won by less than 1,000 votes in 2019 and this Bloc-Conservative battle is one to watch. The Saguenay is a region where the Bloc is particularly strong, comfortably holding the other two seats, and it would not be surprising to see the Conservatives lose here.

Three way races:

We can also anticipate potential three-way races in Beauport–Limoilou and Trois-Rivières, where the Bloc incumbents could lose to the Conservatives or even the Liberals depending on how the votes split. In 2019, the margin in both ridings between first and third place was only about 2,000 votes in total.

Ontario – Jeff Rutledge

Is this a change election? If so, the path to victory for the Conservatives sits squarely in a number of key GTA ridings. For the Liberals, they must maintain the red ring around Toronto. The NDP could play a key role in many of these ridings as well, whether splitting votes or potentially winning over Liberal incumbents. 

Conservatives know that, with tight polls in Ontario, vote splitting between the Liberals and NDP could play in their favour, particularly in some of the tightest ridings. Those include the likes of Whitby, Newmarket-Aurora, Aurora-Oak Ridges-Richmond Hill, Milton and the Kitchener-Waterloo region, where Conservatives experienced upsets by Liberals in 2019 amid remarkably tight vote margins.

As we enter the final stretch, the three major parties have focussed their attention on the issue of affordability.  Conservatives know that they need to seize opportunities with accessible female voters who either did not vote in 2019 or didn’t vote for Conservatives after fumbles by the previous leader. Liberal leader Justin Trudeau’s positioning on day care appears to have shored up his support, but NDP leader Jagmeet Singh seeks to stop any Liberal momentum by hammering Trudeau on undelivered promises in an effort to gain ground in former NDP strongholds.

Whitby:

Whitby riding is held by the Liberals but is a must-win for Conservative leader Erin O’Toole, given that it’s right in his backyard. Historically, this riding has seen strong support for the NDP, meaning there could be some mobility of the progressive vote.  

Newmarket-Aurora:

This riding was held by Conservative Lois Brown from 2008-2015. The Liberal incumbent is former Newmarket Mayor Tony Van Bynen. A strong showing from either the Green Party or NDP could upset the Liberal vote margin and see the riding turn blue. The Conservative candidate is Harold Kim

Aurora-Oak Ridges-Richmond Hill:

Leona Alleslev won this riding in 2015 under the Liberal banner, but switched to the Conservatives before the 2019 election. She managed to pull out a win with a small margin, beating her Liberal competitor by just 2%. This riding will once again be a two-horse race between highly organized Liberal and Conservative campaigns – it will again by close.

Milton:

Milton was a bitter loss for the Conservatives in 2019. Adam van Koeverden (a star candidate for the Liberals) is running for re-election. The Conservatives are hungry to take this riding back.

Kitchener-Waterloo region:

Kitchener-Waterloo is a bit of a litmus test for O’Toole. The formerly Conservative region flipped to the Liberals in 2019 (with a very close second for the Greens in Kitchener Centre). The demographics in this region continue to change, with growing populations of new Canadians, young professionals and progressives, meaning it will be worth watching. Perhaps we could even see a new Green MP in the House?

British Columbia – Marcella Munro

Canada’s third most populous province has one of the most interesting political cultures in the country. For much of this election campaign, it’s been not a two but a three-way tie in the polls between the Conservatives, Liberals, and New Democrats.

BC has all types of contests in play. Some ridings are Liberal-Conservative switchers; some are NDP-Liberal switchers; some are Conservative-NDP switchers, and a couple have been known to be a race between all three.

The popularity of Premier John Horgan’s NDP provincial government has surely put a bounce in the NDP numbers. And while the Liberal’s climate plan has received a rave review from former provincial Green Party leader Andrew Weaver, many progressive voters are still upset by Trudeau’s purchase of the Trans Mountain pipeline.

Affordability is likely the more immediate concern of British Columbians, and in particular seniors and young families in the dense, riding rich, Lower Mainland. With constantly rising housing prices pushing families further into the suburbs, one can expect Conservatives to be challenged in some ridings that they have long taken for granted.

There are likely to be 10-12 seats in BC that will switch colours on election night. Here are some we are watching.

South Okanagan-West Kootenay:

The NDP won this seat over the Conservatives by just 3% in 2019. Incumbent Richard Cannings is battling against Conservative Helena Konanz for the second time. This could be one of the only pick-ups for the Conservatives in BC given how tight the numbers are.

Nanaimo-Ladysmith:

This riding will be critical to the long-term fortunes of the Green Party. Paul Manly, who won the seat for the Greens in a 2019 by-election and managed to hold on in the general election, may not have the individual brand strength to hold on given the Green’s lack of a strong national campaign presence. His main competition is School Board Trustee Lisa Marie Barron for the NDP.

Pitt Meadows-Maple Ridge:

This is one of the ridings that has experienced huge demographic change in the last ten years as people moved further into Lower Mainland suburbs for affordable housing. Once reliably Conservative, the riding went Liberal in 2015 but flipped back in in 2019. The NDP have had a considerable presence in this neck of the woods for years provincially, and would love to paint it orange. Incumbent Marc Dalton won it by less than 5%, and it looks like a three-way race this time.

Vancouver Granville:

Affluent and progressive Vancouver Granville, formerly the seat of Independent Jody Wilson-Raybould, should have been an easy riding to win back for the Liberal Party. And Taleeb Noormohamed seemed like the perfect fit. That is, until his party promised to tackle real estate flipping and it came to light that Mr. Noormohamed himself has done very well buying and selling properties, including 14 within a year of purchasing them. High profile climate activist Anjali Appadurai is running for the NDP.



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