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Conservatives and Liberals hope to beat orange wave in west Quebec

NDP candidates in west Quebec are hoping the orange wave that swept the province in 2011 doesn't wash away during this election.

Pontiac riding a hotly-contested race

Mathieu Ravignat is the incumbent NDP MP in Pontiac. (CBC)
Benjamin Woodman is the Conservative candidate in Pontiac. (CBC)
NDP candidates in west Quebec are hoping the orange wave that swept the province in 2011 doesn't wash away during this election.

All four ridings in west Quebec have incumbent NDP members of Parliament.

Some of them are big names within the NDP fold — perhaps even cabinet minister material — including Nycole Turmel in Hull-Aylmer, and Françoise Boivin in Gatineau.

But some not-so-big names also rode the wave during the last federal election, including Mathieu Ravignat in Pontiac, a former Liberal stronghold held by Conservative Lawrence Cannon for two consecutive elections.

Liberals and Conservatives want Pontiac back

William Amos is the Liberal candidate in Pontiac. (CBC)
The Conservative candidate this time in the Pontiac is Benjamin Woodman, a 31-year-old who recently worked in the Prime Minister's Office, as well as the Office of the Minister of Veterans Affairs.

He learned a lot about the riding working with his father on municipal, provincial and federal campaigns. 

"I have no doubt I will be strong voice in this area. It's a riding the Conservatives want to win back," Woodman said.

The Liberals are trying to highlight the party's strong roots in the riding before it turned blue when Stephen Harper swept into power in 2006.

Environmental lawyer William Amos won a hotly-contested Liberal nomination after more than 2,700 members signed up to vote.

"There's no doubt that kind of Liberal support shows we think this riding is winnable," said Amos during an interview in the riding. 

But that was in October, when the Liberal Party was riding high in the polls.

Amos pointed out the Liberals have deep roots in the riding and said federalists in the riding should be concerned about the NDP's commitment to a simple majority in a future referendum on sovereignty as outlined in the NDP's Sherbrooke Declaration.  

Liberal strategy could backfire

University of Ottawa political scientist Claude Denis said the Liberal strategy to revive the fear of sovereignty will likely backfire in Quebec.

"Which is partly why you see the NDP remaining so strong," Denis said

He said Quebeckers are no longer interested in the sovereignty debate, which is why they are not supporting the Bloc Québécois.

Denis said the Liberal strategy risks alienating more French voters.

"There is right now no alternative but the NDP," he said. "They can't stand the Conservatives."

Mathieu Ravignat, the incumbent NDP MP in Pontiac, campaigned at a senior's corn roast in Cantley last week, where he spent a lot of time talking with voters about what an NDP government would look like.  

A women at one table responded enthusiastically, but told CBC she still wasn't sure how she would vote.

"Probably NDP, but I'm still not sure."

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