As the polling data continues to shift, there are various ridings that we look towards initially to gain a sense of how that momentum is translating on the ground.
Much like test market communities for the business world, there are also certain communities that during elections we watch closely for emerging trends including Peterborough, London, Brampton, and Mississauga. If a party is headed towards a majority government, they will need significant support in these communities.
Here at H+K, we have analyzed all 124 ridings and determined them as either bellwethers, battlegrounds, or strongholds. As the campaign unfolds, the bellwethers will be where the change/momentum will start to manifest, followed closely by the battleground ridings. If a stronghold riding starts to shift substantially, some larger trends are developing.
In this update, we look at five “ridings to watch” in each of these categories:
- Bellwether Ridings – Ridings that generally predict who will form government and are indicative of momentum towards one party
- Battleground Ridings – Ridings that are generally a battle between two or more parties. Battlegrounds may be traditional battlegrounds or new ones that are created due to candidates or momentum
- Stronghold Ridings – Ridings that either because of the popularity of the incumbent or the history of a particular party that it is likely to stay in that party’s win column
Bellwethers to Watch
Brantford – Brant
With the retirement of Speaker Dave Levac (Liberal), what is now emerging is a true bellwether riding. We noticed trends emerging in Brantord-Brant in the last cycle of federal and provincial races, and with this now an open seat, this will be a riding to watch to see which party is resonating and who is developing momentum.
This riding has been a long-standing “bellwether” of the political fortunes and trends. The population of Willowdale has changed over the years with the increasing residential intensification, what remains is Willowdale’s desire to have a representative that could be in the cabinet room. Whether that has been former conservative MPPs Charles Harnick and David Young, or since 2003, Liberal David Zimmer.
London North Centre
London ridings have been particularly interesting to political observers since the 1990 election, when the NDP’s Marion Boyd defeated then Liberal Premier David Peterson. While London North Centre tends to skew slightly more centre-right than other London ridings, it is not without forerunner capabilities. It is also a riding that appreciates bold personalities. With the retirement of Deputy Premier Deb Matthew (Liberal), we will be watching this riding closely.
The areas in and around Peterborough tend to shift earlier than others throughout the province. This creates a hub of ridings to watch both for general trends and the ability to leverage those trends into victories.
Chatham Kent – Leamington
A riding that is rooted in its farming and manufacturing history, it has had to adapt to the global changes in both. It is a riding that has been represented by all three parties. It trends a bit towards populism and often elects non-traditional politicians. Currently held by the PCs, this is a riding that you will see all three parties spend time in throughout the campaign.
Battlegrounds to Watch
Beaches – East York
The Liberals and NDP have fiercely battled each other provincially, federally and municipally here for years. Arthur Potts stunned many observers in 2014 by defeating the NDP’s Michael Prue. Since his election, the affable Arthur Potts remains a hard-working MPP and campaigner, but the New Democrats want Beaches – East York back in their column. The NDP believes that Rima Berns-McGown is just the candidate to make that happen.
Attorney General Yasir Naqvi will face challengers from both the NDP’s Joel Harden and the PC’s Colleen McCleery. Ottawa Centre is often a battleground between the Liberals and the NDP. While Naqvi remains quite popular, Harden is a scrappy campaigner and may give the NDP it’s best shot in quite some time.
Newmarket – Aurora
When this riding became Newmarket – Aurora merged some traditional battlegrounds of the Conservatives and the Liberals. This election will see first term Liberal MPP, Minister of the Environment and Climate Change Chris Ballard will defend his riding against former PC Leadership Candidate and former Whitby-Oshawa MPP, Christine Elliott. This is new geographic territory for Elliott; however, she is personally popular throughout the province. Ground game will matter here.
Don Valley East
Liberal Minister and former School Board Trustee Michael Coteau is competing against long-serving City Councillor and Deputy Mayor Denzil Minnan-Wong. This is a battle of local titans, each with significant history and name recognition within the community. We can anticipate a municipal run this fall for whomever is unsuccessful on June 7th.
Kenora – Rainy River
This riding is an open race and tends to be influenced as much by Manitoba politics as Ontario politics. While often thought of as the riding of former NDP Leader Howard Hampton, this is a riding that in its various configurations has been represented federally or provincially by all three parties. As an open seat, look to the PCs and NDP to fiercely battle for it.
Strongholds to Watch
Until the 2014 campaign, Burlington could be counted on as one of, if not the, safest conservative seat in Ontario, having been in the conservative column for over 70 years. In 2014, then MPP Jane McKenna lost to Liberal Eleanor McMahon. This may or may not have been an electoral blip, but McKenna and the Conservatives are desperate to regain their fortress from McMahon.
Liberal MPP Jim Bradley has represented St. Catharines since 1977. This riding, provincially, should remain Liberal after June 7th. This would allow Bradley the opportunity to retire as the longest serving MPP in the province’s history (Robert Nixon 42 years). Bradley has remained highly engaged in both the province and his community throughout his time in office.
Prior to the election of the Progressive Conservative’s Ernie Hardeman in 1995, Oxford was decidedly a bellwether riding. However, this is now decidedly Ernie Hardeman’s riding. Hardeman, a former Minister of Agriculture, is popular both in the community and with stakeholders.
The Dean of the NDP caucus, having been elected in 1990, Gilles Bisson is an important figure in the party and in Timmins. Bisson is a leading voice on many issues including health and safety, forestry, mining, and trade issues.
Eglinton – Lawrence
This riding has been held since 1995 by Liberal MPP Michael Colle, who has worked diligently for his community since his election to the legislature after nearly a decade at the municipal level. Colle has never been afraid to be outspoken on issues that he felt mattered to his community, especially with transit and transportation issues. Currently, Eglinton-Lawrence is held both provincially and federally by the Liberal party.