Riding hot spots: Verdun

The riding of Verdun is a Liberal stronghold but support for the Parti Québécois has been growing, making Verdun a riding to watch in this election campaign.

In the last provincial election 18 months ago, the Liberals eked out a win by fewer than 700 votes

PQ support is growing in the Liberal stronghold riding of Verdun on the island of Montreal. (CBC)

The riding of Verdun is a Liberal stronghold but support for the PartiQuébécois has been growing, making it a riding to watch in this election campaign.

Created in 1966, Verdun has always been Liberal red. 
Liberal candidate Jacques Daoust says the main election issue in Verdun is the economy. (CBC)

MNA Henri-François Gautrin has held the riding for the last 25 years.

But that dominance by the Liberal Party has been eroding over the last decade.

In 2003, Gautrin won his seat by more than 6,000 votes over the PQ’s candidate.

In 2007, Gautrin won by about 4,000 votes.

The Liberal’s margin over the PQ narrowed in 2008, when Gautrin was re-elected by fewer than 3,000 votes.

In the last election in 2012, his victory was razor thin over his PQ rival — fewer than 700 votes.

This time, Gautrin isn’t running again.

Economist Jacques Daoust is seeking the seat for the Liberal Party, and he says the economy is the first priority for people in Verdun.

“The real concern is jobs,” Daoust said as he visited workers at Verdun Anodizing, the riding’s manufacturing plant that’s been operating over the last 70 years.

Mostly middle-class

Verdun is known as a residential area, with wealthier residents living across the water on Nuns’ Island. The mainland on the island of Montreal is mostly middle-class with a few pockets of low-income families. More people rent their homes than own them.

“You can rent an apartment, or you can own an apartment. That’s why i was talking about cooperative habitation - because the interest rates are so low now, it may be affordable if you have some kind of help,” Daoust said.

His rival running for the PQ, Lorraine Pintal, says her party recognizes the need for social housing. The PQ is promising 7,500 social housing units for the city of Montreal, but nothing specific yet for Verdun.

“Madame [Pauline] Marois and Mr. [Jean-François] Lisée said that they know that the Sud-Ouest needs a lot of social housing. So i’ll work on that. I’ll work to have our fair part of social housing,” Pintal said.

As the former executive director at the Théâtre du Nouveau Monde, Pintal is well-known in Montreal and Verdun. 
PQ candidate Lorraine Pintal says she will work to bring more social housing units to Verdun if she is elected. (CBC)

Her background is theatre, but she says the economy is high on her radar.

“It’s the jobs in Verdun, the economic development of Wellington Street and the care that Madame Marois takes of the new families and the families who are needing support to have a better life.”

The neighbourhood is gentrifying — rents are going up and so are condo developments, with prices too high for many families in the riding.

“We can say between 1,000 and 1,300 people would need social housing, and we need 1,000 units to be build right now,” said Marie Lauret of the Verdun Citizens Development Corporation.

Other like Bill Walsh of the Wellington Development Corp. say they want the riding to flourish economically, socially and culturally.

“There's history, heritage … so what we want to do is not only become a commercial street but much more like a way of life.”