Cambridge, Kitchener South-Hespeler are races to watch, say analysts

Two local political science professors weigh in on which local races will be the most interesting to watch in this fall's federal election.

'Waterloo region is absolutely fascinating,' says prof Peter Woolstencroft

This results map from the 2015 federal election shows four ridings in Waterloo region as red, indicating they went to Liberals. They were: Waterloo, Kitchener Centre, Kitchener South-Hespeler and Cambridge. The blue indicates Conservative wins, with Kitchener-Conestoga as part of this region. The red riding to the right is Guelph, which is surrounded by Wellington-Halton Hills. (CBC)

Cambridge and Kitchener South-Hespeler will be the interesting local races to watch in this federal election, two political science professors say.

But that doesn't mean you can ignore the others, says University of Waterloo professor emeritus Peter Woolstencroft.

"Waterloo region is absolutely fascinating," he told CBC. "In 2011, it was all blue (Conservative) and then after the 2015 election, it was all red (Liberal) except for Kitchener-Conestoga."

In 2015, there was a Liberal surge and that helped the candidates in Kitchener South-Hespeler and Cambridge, Woolstencroft said.

The MPs for the two ridings are Marwan Tabbara and Bryan May. They aren't the household names other Liberals in the region are, he said, and that's a problem when voters are looking at local candidates with whom they connect.

"These two guys have got a real problem because they don't have an energy of a presence that would remind people, 'Oh, these are really good people,'" even if they're not a fan of the party's leader, Justin Trudeau, Woolstencroft said.

Elections Canada results show May won his seat with 2,708 votes more than incumbent Conservative MP Gary Goodyear in 2015. Tabbara won his seat with 2,671 more than Conservative candidate Marian Gagne.

Barry Kay, associate professor at Wilfrid Laurier University and who does election seat projections through the Laurier Institute for the Study of Public Opinion, says those aren't big margins. He says the two seats have the potential to switch to another party.

"Those are ridings that the Liberals took, but by margins that were sufficiently small last time," Kay said, noting this time the two ridings are – for this region – "the most competitive on paper."

Tabbara is defending his Kitchener South-Hespeler seat against Conservative Alan Keeso, NDP candidate Wasai Rahimi, the Green's David Weber and People's Party of Canada candidate Joseph Todd.

For May in Cambridge, he's up against Conservative Sunny Attwal, the NDP's Scott Hamilton, Green candidate Michele Braniff and David Haskell of the People's Party.

Waterloo, Kitchener Centre ridings

Kay says Waterloo and Kitchener Centre are "much more likely to be held by the Liberals" and Woolstencroft largely agreed. 

But they also both note there is a lot of support for the Green candidate, Mike Morrice, in Kitchener Centre, which could impact the race.

There are lots of Green signs in the riding, but Kay says while a lot of signs can look good, "I don't think the signs are in itself a huge indicator" of voter support.

Woolstencroft says he thinks Morrice could pull votes away from Liberal candidate Raj Saini and the NDP's Andrew Moraga. Then there's also the impact of People's Party candidate Patrick Bernier and Animal Protection Party of Canada candidate Ellen Papenburg to consider.

"[Morrice] won't be taking votes from the Conservatives. So maybe that means [Conservative candidate] Stephen Woodworth has got a fighting chance," Woolstencroft said.

Liberal candidate Tim Louis, left, will be facing Conservative incumbent Harold Albrecht, right, again in this election in the riding of Kitchener-Conestoga. (CBC News)

Kitchener-Conestoga close in 2015 

Many of the ridings will come down to a fight between Liberals and Conservatives, Kay believes.

The Kitchener-Conestoga race could be interesting given it was a tight race in the last election, Woolstencroft said. The Liberal candidate in 2015 was Tim Louis and he came very close to Albrecht.

Albrecht won by just 251 votes and Louis is back this year to try again.

"Harold Albrecht cannot afford to have any movement to the Liberals because [he's] vulnerable. He's running against a guy who ran against him last time. I'm sure [Louis] has not been sitting on his porch watching the world go by," Woolstencroft said.

The riding also has Green candidate Stephanie Goertz and People's Party candidate Koltyn Wallar.

Kay said the incumbent Albrecht may have an advantage. There's a rural element to the Kitchener-Conestoga riding and that's the "kind of territory the Conservatives are more likely to keep strong in."

Guelph Green?

If the Green party will earn a seat in Ontario, both Woolstencroft and Kay think it could be in Guelph.

That's largely due to the success of Ontario Green Party leader Mike Schreiner, who won the provincial election in June 2018 to become the city's MPP.

"I don't think much will happen there unless the Liberals collapse," Woolstencroft said. 

The seat is currently held by Liberal Lloyd Longfield. The Green candidate is Steve Dyck, but there's also Conservative Ashish Sachan, NDP candidate Aisha Jahangir, People's Party candidate Mark Paralovos and Gordon Truscott is running for the Christian Heritage Party.

Kay agrees that at this point in the campaign, the Greens aren't in a position to win in Guelph.

"I don't think they're there yet," he said, but noted there are still five weeks until voting day. "If the Greens should take off in Ontario, I would suggest Guelph is perhaps the most likely seat to pick up."

Voters will go to the polls on Oct. 21.


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