Essex riding could go blue in 2019 election: political science professor

Conservative candidate in Essex had almost as many votes in the last provincial election as NDP MP Tracey Ramsey did in 2015 federal election.

Conservative Chris Lewis could be contender for Essex riding, carbon tax and Singh could be factors

Political science professor believes Essex NDP seat "vulnerable." (Chris Young/Canadian Press)

Political science professor Lydia Miljan can't make any firm predictions for the federal election 10 months away, but if she had to pick a local riding where people might see an upset, she would pick Essex.

Miljan, associate professor of political science at the University of Windsor, points to the 22,731 votes Conservative candidate Chris Lewis got in the last provincial election as evidence he could give NDP incumbent Tracey Ramsey a run for her money.

"His numbers provincially are very close to what Tracey's were federally last time in 2015," she said.

"In fact, Chris Lewis got more votes than what Jeff Watson did."

Ramsey finished with 25,072 votes compared to Watson's 21,602 votes in 2015.

Miljan said several factors could play against Ramsey, such as the identity of the liberal candidate. According to her, a strong Liberal will likely pull votes away from Ramsey. 

Not only that, she said federal NDP leader Jagmeet Singh could also prove to be detrimental.

"Jagmeet Singh has been under performing so far and I think that's what makes the NDP more vulnerable is that he effectively is a weak leader," she said.

Essex MP Tracey Ramsey says she will be running on her own record in the upcoming election. (Katerina Georgieva/CBC)

Ramsey said Singh can come through if only the Liberal government would call a byelection in Burnaby, B.C. to allow him to get a seat.

As for her own seat, Ramsey said she is running on her record.

"We had a Conservative sitting for a long time before I came into office in 2015 so people can see what that impact has been and how that looks in their community," said Ramsey.

"I think that ultimately they'll make their decision based on my performance, my record, what I've been doing and how hard I've been working for the people of Essex."

New MP for Chatham-Kent-Leamington

One sure bet for Miljan is voters in Chatham-Kent-Leamington will elect a new member. Conservative MP Dave Van Kesteren is not running for re-election. 

Associate professor of political science Lydia Miljan (Dale Molnar/CBC)

David Epp, who was the vice chair of the Conservative riding association in Chatham-Kent-Leamington until his nomination as candidate last November, will race against Liberal Katie Olmstead, who ran unsuccessfully in 2015.

Epp believes Van Kesteren's record will be help him win the riding in October, along with Epp's experience serving in a number of organizations, including the Ontario Processing Vegetable Growers Association.

"I've spent 30 years representing producers' interests in that field and I continue to do so today and so that is something that I can add to [Van Kesteren's] wealth of experience as well," said Epp, who considers leader Andrew Scheer an asset.

Miljan, however, said while Scheer is gaining popularity, they can't underestimate the campaigning power and charisma of Justin Trudeau.

"He is the selfie Prime Minister. He's great with the photo shoots and things like that," said Miljan. "And he does bring star power."

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau greets people in Leamington during a Canada Day celebration. (Meg Roberts/CBC)

Trudeau visited the area a couple of times last year and the president of Windsor West Federal Liberal Riding Association predicts several high profile MPs will be back this year to campaign — but wouldn't commit to the prime minister being one of them.

According to Doug Sartori, there will be several candidates vying for the Windsor West nomination in the spring. He said the local Liberals are running on the government's record.

"I think Liberals in this region have a good story to tell. We have a popular government right now. A lot of this government's policies have done good things for this region and particularly Windsor West," said Sartori.

However, Miljan said his carbon tax could prove a tough sell. However, Conservatives will also have to watch how they will meet climate change commitments under the Paris Accord without the tax.

On that note, she said Premier Doug Ford could give the local Conservative candidates a boost, as long as he doesn't contradict Scheer's policies on climate change.

For Epp, Miljan thinks he has a good chance of winning because he will likely have a solid "machine" working for him.

Epp said he is currently putting together his campaign team.

Olmstead was not immediately available for an interview. The NDP has not yet chosen a candidate for the riding.


Dale Molnar

Video Journalist

Dale Molnar is a video journalist at CBC Windsor. He is a graduate of the University of Windsor and has worked in television, radio and print. He has received a number of awards including an RTDNA regional TV news award and a New York Festivals honourable mention.