Monday, September 01, 2008

A brief look at the federal ridings

Back in August 2006, this site got started with coverage of the provincial election. Things really got rolling with my post, the ironically named, a brief look at the ridings which I continually updated throughout the campaign before making a final prediction.

It is beyond my level of free time, ability and interest to do something similar for all of Canada's 308 ridings. But, though I have gotten somewhat away from commenting on local politics, I just can't resist doing something similar for New Brunswick's 10 federal ridings.

So, here is my non-partisan evaluation of the lay of the land, in alphabetical order:

Acadie—Bathurst - currently NDP

When Yvon Godin upset Doug Young in this riding in 1997 many people, including yours truly, believed it was a one-time fluke. Godin's three successful re-elections (two against heavyweights) has proved me quite wrong. This is an easy call: safe NDP.
Beausejour - currently Liberal

In 1984, Brian Mulroney swept every seat in New Brunswick except for this one. Though I often hear chattering about whether or not Dominic LeBlanc pays enough attention to the little things and the Conservatives have not yet announced their candidate, this should be a safe Liberal seat.
Fredericton - currently Liberal *incumbent retiring

This should be one of the more interesting races in the province. A Liberal seat since 1993, and a solid Conservative seat for 4 decades before that, this is the only open seat in the province, with the retirement of former minister Andy Scott. The Liberals have nominated airport CEO David Innes and the Conservatives have nominated PC MLA and former provincial minister Keith Ashfield. Both candidates are "boring old white guys."

Ashfield represents a provincial riding which lies almost entirely in New Brunswick Southwest, though its largest community (New Maryland) is in this federal riding and Ashfield himself hails from Lincoln. He is a long time party guy (ran unsuccessfully in 1991 before winning in 1999, 2003 and 2006) and knows how things are done. He has been campaigning almost full time since being nominated.

Innes is more of a political neophyte, and has not been able to devote as much time to campaigning as Ashfield has, due to a busy day job.

The outcome of the election could depend on whether left-wing voters vote NDP or stay home (a likely Conservative win) or vote Liberal. Andy Scott survived some tough races in 1997 and 2000 thanks in large part to low NDP votes and a split right-wing vote. The latter will not be a factor in 2006, the former remains a question. The NDP vote in the past four elections has been 21%, 17%, 7% and 13%. If the NDP stays in the 20s, it will be hard, though not impossible, for the Liberals to win.

The NDP does not currently have a candidate, the one they had previously nominated stepped down and endorsed Innes the day he was nominated. Notwithstanding that, I will very tentatively class this as leans Conservative.
Fundy—Royal - currently Conservative

The only thing to dispute about this riding is whether it is the safest Conservative seat in Atlantic Canada or if New Brunswick Southwest is. Safe Conservative.
Madawaska—Restigouche - currently Liberal

This is something of a bellweather - both of its predecessors (Madawaska-Victoria and Restigouche-Chaleur) tended to go with the government. In 2006, the current incarnation missed that, but just by a hair. We'll be seeing a re-match between incumbent Liberal J.C. D'Amours and 1980s-era provinicial minister Jean-Pierre Ouellet.

The popular NDP candidate, Rodolphe Martin, is not running this time. Normally that would be good news for the Liberals but Martin's votes came from blue collar forestry workers who are just as likely (or maybe more likely) to go to Ouellet as they are to D'Amours. I would say this seat leans Conservative.
Miramichi - currently Liberal

This is a fairly safe Liberal seat. Charlie Hubbard had reason to worry earlier in the cycle when the Conservatives had nominated well known and well liked businessman Bill Tozer. Tozer has since stepped down and, barring another remarkable candidate, the seat should stay safely Liberal.
Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe - currently Liberal

Although former mayor Brian Murphy doesn't have quite the stranglehold his predecessor Claudette Bradshaw had here, it is hard to see this riding being painted any colour other than red on election day. To hedge, the Conservatives have not yet named a candidate, but it likely doesn't matter except in terms of margin. Safe Liberal. Moved to leans Liberal on September 7.
New Brunswick Southwest - currently Conservative

The only thing to dispute about this riding is whether it is the safest Conservative seat in Atlantic Canada or if Fundy—Royal is. Safe Conservative.
Saint John - currently Liberal

Who was the quote, "the reports of my death are greatly exagerated," attributed to? If you said Paul Zed, I wouldn't be surprised. Many pundits wrote Zed off for dead in 2004 and 2006 but he won both times. Margaret-Ann Blaney or Trevor Holder could be game changers but, for now, this seat seems to lean Liberal. Changed to leans Conservative on September 10.
Tobique—Mactaquac - currently Conservative

Though this seat went Conservative by only 336 votes in 2006, it shouldn't be too much trouble for Mike Allen to hold on. This is a solidly "small c" conservative riding, giving the combined forces of the PCs and the Reformers over 60% in both 1997 and 2000. Once wrestled away from the Liberals, it is hard to imagine this seat returning to them any time in the near future. To make matters worse, the Liberals had a candidate nominated for nearly a year but he has since stepped down (this past winter) and no new candidate has been nominated. Safe Conservative.
So the preliminary count is:

Conservative 5 (+2)
3 safe + 2 lean

Liberal 4 (-2)
3 safe + 1 lean

NDP 1 (n/c)
1 safe + 0 lean

Sept. 7: CPC 5 (3+2), Lib 4 (2+2), NDP 1 (1+0)
Sept. 10: CPC 6 (3+3), Lib 3 (2+1), NDP 1 (1+0)

Am I missing something? Am I out to lunch?

Please set me straight either in the comments or at


nbt said...

I don't have any specific info on the internal workings of the New Brunswick Tories at this time, but is Bernard Lord out of the picture in the Moncton-Riverview-Dieppe riding?

I mean, he spent a lot of time defending the Harper government's decisions and policies this year in public (and on Mike Duffy live). Not to mention, he chaired the committee on bilingualism that reviewed language policy in Canada which committed the government to a major re-investment in official languages in order to increase services to official language minorities, and to promote bilingualism among the general Canadian youth population.

Plus, with the latter being said, he would be a huge wildcard in Quebec (as a francophone spokesperson and native son) for the conservatives. Something he proposed to do for Harper back in 2006 when he was premier.

To me, putting Lord in Quebec would be the TSN turning point for the Tories and their much sought out majority (it could even mean challenging a few traditional Liberal ridings on the island because of Lord's backing of the statist bilingual policy). Something native Quebecers have always been suspicious of ever since the formation of the reform party (and the comments made in the 1997 election about La Belle province).

I know that appointing star candidates in ridings was always frowned upon by political reformers during the 90s, but wouldn't this be a good opportunity for Harper to do just that in MRD? especially since they have nothing to lose there (as it is a safe Liberal seat as you mentioned in the post). Someting I'm sure nobody disagrees with.

nbpolitico said...

In terms of running in the next election, Lord just last week said, "I ruled that out a long time ago. Nothing has changed for me. I loved my time as premier but I am enjoying what I am doing now."

I think Lord likely still has political ambitions but I don't think running in Quebec would be one of them. There is an unusual relationship between Acadians and Quebeckers and Lord has been accepted by Acadians. Running in Quebec, I think, could harm a lot of his base in Acadie and when you are just starting a federal political career, the last thing you would want would be a dust up in your own backyard.

nbt said...

Sorry nbp, I must have confused you with my above statement. I meant running In Moncton....campaigning in Quebec on behalf of Tories.

And btw, I saw Lord first hand in Shediac eight summers ago where a handful of educated Quebecers at a barbecue (not former NBers) seemed to know him and like him. I was pleasantly surprised.

nbpolitico said...

Sorry about that, what you said, as opposed to how I read it, makes much more sense. You never say never in politics so we'll see.

Though I personally think that Lord wouldn't run in Moncton this time around because he wouldn't be guaranteed to win. In fact, I'd probably give Murphy 60-40 odds in a Murphy-Lord race.

nuna d. above said...

It was 42 to 39 per cent in Saint John last election, I wouldn't be surprised to see it go Tory.