Ottawa·New

Support for independent swells in Ottawa riding

With a week to go until the federal election, the controversial Conservative incumbent in the riding of Renfrew-Nipissing-Pembroke will have to contend with a last-minute surge of support for a 61-year-old independent candidate.

With a week to go until the federal election, the controversial Conservative incumbent in the riding of Renfrew-Nipissing-Pembroke will have to contend with a last-minute surge of support for a 61-year-old independent candidate.

Conservative Cheryl Gallant has held the riding, located west of Ottawa, for a decade. In the 2008 election, she took home more than 60 per cent of the vote and has enjoyed strong support in the area.

But her once-insurmountable lead is wavering as local radio stations and print editorials call for change.

Hec Clouthier, a familiar face in Renfrew County who once held the county seat as a Liberal, lost the riding to Gallant in 2000 after coming under political attack for his party's support of the gun registry.

Unconventional campaign approach

Eleven years later, Clouthier is running again — this time as an independent.

"I firmly believe I'm gonna win this thing on May 2, and we're having a lot of fun at it," he said.

Support for Clouthier is swelling, according to polls. He's released a series of campaign videos through what he's calling "Hec Tube," and his colourful debate performances — in which he has been known to playfully give other candidates nuggies — have attracted more attention to him.

Meanwhile, voters have noted that Gallant hasn't had the best track record when it comes to showing up for debates, having skipped several in past election campaigns.

When she has spoken out, however, she's gotten into some trouble.

Won more than 60% of vote in 2008

Gallant has previously apologized for controversial statements comparing abortion to beheadings in Iraq, and Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff to Libyan dictator Moammar Gaddafi.

Recently, she suggested Newfoundlanders should stop relying on the Coast Guard to rescue them from rough seas.

"It's a thorough embarrassment for all of Renfrew County," said Dave Fisher, a Deep River resident.

Gallant refused repeated requests for an interview.

For all of the times she may have misspoken, her record as a candidate speaks for itself. Gallant has won four consecutive elections in the riding, each time with more votes than the last.

With a new threat coming from the momentum behind Clouthier, though, Gallant will at least be expected to put up a tougher fight to win this time around.

now