Canada 2019: Ontario – Northern and Eastern

Bay of Quinte

MP at Dissolution: Neil Ellis, Liberal

Our Rating: Likely Liberal

Our Take: Neil Ellis, a popular former mayor in the riding, won this open seat in 2015. The seat itself covers the Prince Edward and Quinte West districts around the Bay of Quinte. Ellis did well across the riding, including Belleville where he was mayor; Conservatives only did well in some rural areas. Ellis will be defending his 16.5% margin of victory from last time against the main challenge of Conservative Tim Durkin. 

We rate this as Likely Liberal. It does have a Conservative base, or at least one for its MPP, Todd Smith, who has held the provincial equivalent since 2011, but that’s not going to be enough for the easy elections Smith has had. Ellis is a strong incumbent, but not relying on any popularity either – he has a good ground game, and is far more well-known face than Durkin. In addition, even outside of the 905, his 10000 vote margin should be enough of a cushion. That being said, the Conservatives have justifiably chosen to target this. Ellis’ popularity could not be as big a help as last time given his association with the Trudeau Government, and if the Conservatives did well, we would see a competitive race here. But for now, we are confident Ellis has a strong edge.


MP at Dissolution: Pierre Poilievre, Conservative

Our Rating: Tossup

Our Take: Carleton covers the southern suburbs of Ottawa, a city that is trending heavily to the Liberals, and demographically we can see such changes in Carleton, as commuters move in to the riding, and others move out. Pierre Poilievre became the riding’s MP here in 2015 after he moved over from Nepean – redistribution made this the best riding for the Conservatives in Ottawa, as they did well on the outer edges of the seat, but Poilievre still won by only 3% against Liberal candidate Chris Rodgers. The two will rematch.
Poilievre has a tough fight, and although he has a national presence, it’s not going to help him much in this changing riding. Rodgers is obviously less well-known – but he has come back fighting after last time, and has a very strong ground game, taking advantage of those demographic shifts. Granted, the provincial Progressive Conservatives still won 51.3% of the vote provincially, but it was a regression, despite gaining a majority of seats. The riding could easily buck the national trend as it did provincially. The Liberal lead in Ontario is not even across the province – in Toronto, the 905 and similar suburbs like here, it is better for the Liberals – that is only an average but Carleton will still be close, when it should be a Conservative hold. For all of those reasons, we believe this is a Tossup.


MP at Dissolution: Bob Nault, Liberal

Our Rating: Likely Liberal

Our Take: Kenora is the Ontario riding with the smallest population in the province, but it is also the largest by area. It has a similar history to a standard swing riding, going for the Liberal Roger Valley until 2008, where now provincial Energy Minister Greg Rickford gained the seat until 2015, where Bob Nault reentered the House of Commons. Nault was an MP between 1988 and 2004, including serving as Indigenous Affairs Minister. The last election was a three way race with three high-profile candidates: Nault, the former provincial NDP Leader Howard Hampton, and Rickford who was then also a Cabinet Minister. Nault won by just over 500 votes, drawing votes from all over the riding.

Despite the close fight last time, we believe this riding should be rated as Likely Liberal. Last time, the closeness owes itself to three very strong candidates; Nault was arguably the weakest, but still very strong. Northern ridings often value the candidate considerably more, which explains the standout win for Rickford in an overlapping riding in the 2018 provincial election. Nault’s opposition is now quite low-key, and he has a very strong incumbency in comparison; this should help him. On top of that, his narrow win is also owes itself in part to the Liberal Party performance of 2015. We expect the NDP to be a somewhat smaller factor, so we rate this as Likely Liberal, as we believe Nault has a strong upper hand against Eric Melillo, the Conservative candidate. The NDP have nominated a strong candidate in Rudy Turtle, but he is still less favoured and less well-recognised compared to Hampton. In terms of the issues, concerns about the high remote cost of living and firearm regulations may help other parties. But with far weaker opposition, we think Nault should be re-elected, especially when you factor in the current performance of the parties in Ontario, where the Liberals enjoy a decent lead.


MP at Dissolution: Scott Reid, Conservative

Our Rating: Solidly Conservative

Our Take: Lanark-Frontenac-Kingston is a large Eastern Ontario riding of two (unequal) halves: the Conservative voting Lanark and North Frontenac regions, which include the small municipalities of Smiths Falls and Perth, as well as the commuter area of Carleton Place, and the areas in and around north Kingston which gave the Liberals much of their tally. The Conservative regions easily overpower the Liberal areas however: the Conservatives won 47.9% of votes last time compared to 33.8% for the Liberals. Scott Reid has represented the seat and its predecessors since 2000 and has been a popular local presence, if a quiet one in the House of Commons. He is running for re-election against Liberal Kayley Kennedy.

We rate this as solidly Conservative. Whilst there is a narrative about the Liberals gaining in the sprawl of Ottawa and Kingston – one that isn’t entirely misguided – this seat will not be affected by that, and Conservative margins in the rural areas would offset it anyway. This is a strong riding for the Conservatives and it would be hard to see them lose it even in a worse year than 2015. We expect they’ll hold this easily, Reid creeping around the 50% mark like last time.

Ottawa Centre

MP at Dissolution: Catherine McKenna, Liberal

Our Rating: Likely Liberal

Our Take: Ottawa Centre has provided election watchers with a lot of interest, having elected Ed Broadbent in 1988, and going for the late Paul Dewar in 2006 until his loss to Catherine McKenna, the incumbent Minister of the Environment and Climate Change. McKenna defied the polls to unseat Dewar in 2015, and faces former provincial candidate Emilie Taman for the NDP this time. There was no clear geographic divide between McKenna and Dewar in 2015.
In the most ‘civil servant’ of all ridings, we expect the Liberals to have a great performance. Even outside the Civil Servant population, there are plenty of educated voters. Against the odds, the NDP did win it in 2015 provincially, and we do think there is scope for it to be more competitive if the Liberals decline between now and the election. It was close last time, and we can’t ignore that. But we think McKenna is now best-placed to win. Her tenure as a Minister is unlikely to be an issue here, even if pundits from both sides of the spectrum can regularly criticise it. The NDP don’t have the same ground game as the Liberals, and Taman is still a large step down from Dewar in terms of profile and quality, in spite of her provincial campaign experience. In considering all of this, we rate this as Likely Liberal.


MP at Dissolution: Paul Lefebvre, Liberal

Our Rating: Solidly Liberal

Our Take: Sudbury is a large town surrounded by rural and remote areas, and that status makes it a focal point in Northern Ontario. It is a civil servant town (many branches of the provincial government are here), and a riding where Conservatives have performed poorly; it has been an NDP riding when the Liberals perform poorly as well, but generally the Liberals win this. Paul Lefebvre beat the NDP by just under 20% last time. 

We rate this as Solidly Liberal. At the moment, there are only two parties who have shown they can win this, and one of them, the NDP isn’t in contention this year. They are struggling to win other ridings in Northern Ontario which are far closer targets. In terms of candidates, Lefebvre is a rank and file Liberal, currently a Parliamentary Secretary, but still an incumbent who should be able to hold the riding. The Liberals should therefore cruise to victory in a riding on no other party’s targest list, and we expect a similarly large margin of victory.

Timmins-James Bay

MP at Dissolution: Charlie Angus, NDP

Our Rating: Solidly NDP

Our Take: Timmins-James Bay is a riding of two geographic halves: the city of Timmins and the rural areas as the name suggests, and although Timmins is a stronghold for provincial NDP stalwart Gilles Bisson, it was the main base for the Liberals last time. The NDP run up massive vote totals in the Cochrane and James Bay areas, reaching the 80-90% mark in the latter, and it was those polls that propelled former NDP leadership candidate Charlie Angus to victory last time. Angus won with 42.9% of votes cast in 2015, and is running against Michelle Boileau for the Liberals, who holds a city council seat in Timmins.
The number of ridings we could rate as Solidly NDP is tiny, but this is one of them. Although we don’t rate ridings based on statements like this, we would suspect if the NDP lost this they would be winning fewer than 5 seats. Some estimates do have the NDP in single-digits, but it is hard to see them losing here for a few reasons. Angus is clearly the NDP’s greatest asset, as an advocate for the significant indigenous population of the riding, as well as rural and working class voters in the riding’s south, where he also has a large personal vote. Boileau is reliant on running up huge Liberal margins in Timmins to win – and she needs to offset potential Liberal losses in the rural areas to the Conservatives. We can see the Liberals incurring losses in the rural areas that will prevent Boileau from winning. Because of the strength of Angus preventing the NDP vote from crashing, plus the number of pitfalls for the opposition Liberals, we don’t think the Liberals can win this, and that sentiment is perhaps shared; they don’t appear to be investing resources early. Whilst it may be hard to see any NDP seat as Solid, we do believe our rating for this riding should be that.