The Conservative tide turns and the election gets interesting

Published on Aug. 18, 2015 in the Waterloo Region Record.

Summer is no time for an election campaign.

People are busy doing more important things, like picnicking in the park. But while most of us are tuning politics out, a fascinating three-way race is shaping up across the country. The Liberals, New Democrats and Conservatives are in an unprecedented dead heat.

That’s what the latest polls show, and they haven’t changed much for the past two months, says Barry Kay, professor of political science at Wilfrid Laurier University and one of Canada’s most widely respected election analysts.

Read more. 

Canada election 2015: Strategic voting campaign targets Kitchener Centre riding

Published on Aug. 12, 2015, in CBC News Kitchener-Waterloo.

A group called Vote Together has started a strategic voting campaign in the Kitchener Centre riding, which the group says is an important battleground in the upcoming election.

Vote Together is targeting Kitchener Centre to ask people to vote against incumbent Conservative MP Stephen Woodworth, because they say the area is a swing riding that saw a close result in the last federal election.

“Generally in voting we tend to think people should vote for the candidate or the party they like the best. Strategic voting sort of turns that on its head, and suggests that you vote against the party you least want to see win,” said Barry Kay, a political science professor at Wilfrid Laurier University, in an interview with Craig Norris on The Morning Edition Wednesday.

Read more. 

Canada 2015 election: Riding boundaries shift in Waterloo Region

Published on Aug. 5, 2015 in the CBC News KW

This federal election Waterloo Region has a new riding called Kitchener South-Hespeler, with the boundaries of Kitchener-Centre, Waterloo, Kitchener-Conestoga and Cambridge shifting to accommodate.

“What they’ve done is create a whole lot more competitive seats, whose determination on election day will be influenced by the trends at the moment,” said Kay in an interview with CBC News.

Read more. 

Byelections can have surprising results, what will happen this time?

Author: Geoffrey Stevens

Published August 20, 2012, in Waterloo Region Record.

It’s been nearly two weeks since Dalton McGuinty called provincial byelections for Kitchener-Waterloo and for Vaughan. At this stage, no one, frankly, can predict what is going to happen. Continue reading

That’s par for the course. We are in the dog days of summer and voters are more interested in their cottages and their barbecues, and in getting the kids ready to return to school, than they are in whether McGuinty’s Liberals regain their majority on Sept. 6 — or in such local issues as whether the widening of Highway 7 between Kitchener and Guelph, already 31 years in the planning, will ever happen.

Drowsy, inattentive voters always make summer campaigns hard to call, even for experienced pollsters. The sheer unpredictability of voters in byelections simply magnifies the problem. Voters can do almost anything in a byelection. Historical voting patterns may count for nothing. Byelection voters find themselves liberated. They can throw off their shackles and vote any way they darned well please.

Sometimes the result can be startling. Flash back to October 1978, to Newfoundland. Pierre Trudeau was in power, and his Liberals regarded Newfoundland as their fief, except for those occasions when the Tories borrowed a few seats. Newfoundlanders had never sent a New Democrat (or CCFer) to Ottawa. Suddenly, out of nowhere, in a federal byelection that October, an NDP candidate with the improbable name of Alphonsus E. Faour (known as “Fonse” to his friends) captured the riding of Humber-Port au Port-St. Barbe. Even New Democrats were dumbfounded.

(Fonse Faour was an MP for 490 days before losing the seat to a Liberal in the 1980 federal election. He went on to serve briefly as the provincial NDP leader and today sits as a trial division judge on the Newfoundland Supreme Court.)

In Ontario, back in 1969, a provincial byelection produced an equally unexpected result. The riding was Middlesex South, on the edge of London, which was the political fortress of the Conservative premier of the day, John Robarts. In the case of Middlesex South, the byelection served as a surrogate for a major political battle. Premier Robarts had held Ontario out of medicare when the national health insurance plan came into force in the country in 1968. Robarts denounced medicare as a “Machiavellian plot.” (What he meant was never entirely clear, but his opposition to medicare was shared, if not inspired, by the insurance industry in London.)

The NDP was determined to take the medicare fight to Robarts, on his home turf. They blanketed Middlesex South, sending high-profile canvassers from Toronto and beyond to knock on farm doors. Their unknown candidate, Kenneth Bolton, an Anglican archdeacon, won. The Conservatives got the message, and Ontario joined medicare. (Ken Bolton lost the seat at the first available opportunity, as Middlesex South returned to the Tory fold in the 1971 provincial election. Meanwhile, Robarts retired and Bill Davis became premier.)

Closer to home, there was a federal byelection in the riding of Waterloo South (now Cambridge) in 1964. The Conservatives owned the seat or thought they did. In the 1964 byelection, however, they were upset by New Democrat Max Saltsman, a local dry cleaner, who went on to get re-elected four times and proved to be a popular and effective member for 15 years in the House of Commons. The NDP hasn’t done much in the region since Saltsman’s day.

Over the years, byelections have produced some notable results. By my count no fewer than five future or former prime ministers have used the byelection route: Lester Pearson, Brian Mulroney, Jean Chrétien, Joe Clark (in 2000, on his second time around as Tory leader) and Stephen Harper (in his Canadian Alliance days).

Then there’s Thomas Mulcair (2007 byelection), Bob Rae (both federally and provincially), Stéphane Dion, Tommy Douglas (twice), Robert Stanfield, Paul Hellyer, John Crosbie, David Crombie and Sheila Copps. At Queen’s Park, byelections have produced Christine Elliott, John Tory and Andrea Horwath, among others.

What will Sept. 6 produce?