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Trudeau’s 14-seat majority could ‘easily’ be reduced to minority ‘or worse’ in 2019, say opponents, but Liberals still 12 points ahead

By Abbas Rana      

In 2019, the Conservatives and the NDP will target the 14 seats where the Liberals won by 2.5 per cent or less in the last election.

The 14 Liberal MPs who won their ridings by 2.5 per cent or less in 2015: Nick Whalen (St. John’s East, Nfld. 1.4%); Denis Lemieux (Chicoutimi-LeFjord, Que. 1.4%); David Graham (Laurentides-Labelle, Que. 2.4%); Jean-Yves Duclos (Quebec, Que. 1.9%); Leona Alleslev (Aurora-Oak Ridges-Richmond, Que. 2.1%); Mike Bossio (Hastings-Lennox and Addington, Ont. 0.5%); Bob Nault (Kenora, Ont. 1.6%); Arif Virani (Parkdale-High Park, Ont. 1.8%); Julie Dabrusin (Toronto-Danforth, Ont. 2.2%); Kent Hehr (Calgary Centre, Alta. 1.2%); Randy Boissonnault (Edmonton Centre, Alta. 2.2%); Amarjeet Sohi (Edmonton Mill Woods, Alta. 0.2%); Jati Sidhu (Mission-Matsqui-Fraser Canyon, B.C. 2.3%); and Dan Ruimy (Pitt Meadows-Maple Ridge, B.C. 2.5%). The Hill Times photographs by Jake Wright and courtesy Parliament of Canada, Liberal.ca, Parl.gc.ca, and Twitter
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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s 14-seat majority government could “easily” be reduced to a minority or even kicked to the opposition benches in 2019, say Liberal opponents, as the margins of victory in the Liberals’ 14 tightest victories in 2015 were between 0.2 and 2.5 per cent.

Pollster Greg Lyle of Innovative Research said these closely fought 14 ridings will play a critical role in the party’s electoral fortunes in the next election.

“They have the greatest chance to matter the most,” Mr. Lyle told The Hill Times.

Declared Fred Delorey, the Conservatives’ former director of political operations: “[The Liberals] have a 14-seat majority and every seat is incredibly important. That’s a very small majority when you think about it. [It can] easily shift to a minority situation, or even worse, for the Liberals.”

In the last election, there were 338 federal ridings up for grabs, 30 more than the 2011 election. The Liberals won a majority government with 184 seats across the country. The Conservatives won 99, the NDP 44, Bloc Québécois 10, and the Green Party one. A party needed 170 seats to form a majority government.

The Trudeau (Papineau, Que.) Liberals won 6.9 million votes or 39.5 per cent of the votes in 2015; the Conservatives won 5.6 million or 31.9 per cent; the NDP won 3.4 million or 19.7 per cent; the Bloc won 821,144 or 4.7 per cent; and the Green Party won 602,944 or 3.4 per cent.

Since May 2016, Nunavut MP Hunter Tootoo, who was elected as a Liberal, has been sitting as an Independent, which has reduced the Liberals’ seat count to 183. Mr. Tootoo won his seat by a comfortable 20.5 per cent margin.

The riding of Sturgeon River-Parkland, Alta., is vacant following the resignation of former Conservative MP and interim party leader Rona Ambrose. The riding of Lac-Saint-Jean, Que., will soon be vacant with its Conservative MP Denis Lebel poised to take on the job of president of Conseil de l’industrie forestière du Québec.

Of the 14 tightest victories for the Liberals in the last election, five are in Ontario, three each are in Alberta and Quebec, two in British Columbia, and one in Newfoundland and Labrador.

The slimmest margin of victory was for Infrastructure Minister Amarjeet Sohi in Edmonton Mill Woods, Alta., winning the riding by a 0.2 per cent margin.

Like Mr. Sohi, two others among these 14 Liberal MPs are rookies who ended up with cabinet appointments. They include Veterans Affairs Minister Kent Hehr (Calgary Centre, Alta.), who has a 1.2 per cent victory, and Families, Children and Social Development Minister Jean-Yves Duclos (Québec, Que.), who won by 1.9 per cent.

Liberal MP Randy Boissonnault (Edmonton Centre, Alta.) is not a cabinet minister, but is special adviser to Prime Minister Trudeau (Papineau, Que.) on LGBTQ2 issues. He won his riding by 2.2 per cent.

Each election, federal parties draws up lists of ridings to target. The ridings won or lost by close margins in the previous election form a big part of these lists, and parties pour more resources into the contests in these ridings, and that includes volunteers, party funding, and visits from party leaders.

Mr. Lyle said the three cabinet ministers who won their ridings by close margins are politically tricky because the cabinet ministers have to spend more time in Ottawa and less time in their constituencies, which is crucial in close ridings.

“Honestly, it’s a mixed bag being a minister in a swing seat,” said Mr. Lyle. “Ministers are committed to spending more time away from their riding than traditional MPs. People like to know their Member makes a difference, but what they really want to know is: will their Members will make a difference for them?”

NDP MP Charlie Angus is running for the leadership of his party. Beside him is leadership opponent Niki Ashton. The Hill Times photograph by Sam Garcia

NDP MP Charlie Angus (Timmins-James Bay, Ont.) told The Hill Times that his party will be targeting ridings that were won or lost by slim margins. Mr. Angus, who is running for the leadership of his party, said his aim in the next election is to defeat the Liberals and form the government.

“They [Liberals] could be reduced to minority or they could be reduced to opposition,” said Mr. Angus. “My job as NDP leader is to win government.”

Mr. Angus won his riding by 8.1 per cent in the last election.

Liberal MP Kyle Peterson, left, pictured with Liberal MP Paul Lefebvre. The Hill Times photograph by Cynthia Münster

Liberal MP Chris Bittle (St. Catharines, Ont.) said his party would have to pay particular attention to these 14 closest ridings as this could mean the difference between a majority or minority government in the next election.

“If you are going to form a majority government, they become fundamentally important,” said Mr. Bittle, who won his riding by 5.6 per cent. “They all are important, obviously, but you do have to look at those because your safe seats will be with you in the worst of times.”

Liberal MP Kyle Peterson (Newmarket-Aurora, Ont.) said winning the close ridings back in 2019 will require hard work, commitment, and connecting with voters. He won his riding by 2.6 per cent and said, since the last election, he’s focusing on staying in touch with constituents by meeting them in person, making phone calls, and attending local events.

“I’m not taking anything for granted by any stretch of imagination,” said Mr. Peterson.

“We always hope to get to every door, so that’s going to be the target again. It’s going to take a lot of volunteers. We’re starting to put the volunteers together now. We have a lot of eager volunteers that are active already.”

Mr. Delorey said the Conservatives will have an edge over the Liberals in 2019 because, as incumbents, they will have to defend their government’s record. Also, he said Conservatives now have a new leader in Andrew Scheer (Regina-Qu’Appelle, Sask.) and his policies could appeal to more voters.

Fred Delorey is a former director of political operations for the Conservative Party. The Hill Times photograph by Cynthia Münster

“In four years time, the Liberals are going to have four years of governing behind them. That’s four years of ticking someone off for the decisions you’ve made,” said Mr. Delorey. “It’s very difficult to hold seats for a majority government. Almost always, the governing party loses seats in the following election. At the same time, Conservatives have a fresh new leader and new policies and a new approach that could appeal to a lot of Canadians, and you could see a lot of those ridings flip.”

Liberal MP Dan Ruimy (Pitt Meadows-Maple Ridge, B.C.), who won his seat by 2.5 per cent, said since the last election, he has been holding town halls, roundtables, and attending events in his riding. He said his main priority is to be accessible to his constituents and represent their views in Ottawa.

“When it’s time for the new election, I hope to be judged by the efforts I have put into taking care of my constituents in my riding,” said Mr. Ruimy.

In the last election, there were 70 ridings that were won by a margin of five per cent or less of the votes. MPs and a pollsters told The Hill Times these will be battleground ridings in 2019. Of the 70 ridings across the country that were won by a margin of five per cent or less, the Liberals won 34, the NDP won 16, the Conservatives won 15, and the Bloc Québécois won five. Twenty-eight of these ridings were in Ontario, 22 in Quebec, four in Alberta, nine in British Columbia, three in Manitoba, two in Saskatchewan, and one each were in Newfoundland and Labrador, and New Brunswick.

There were 129 ridings that were won by 10 per cent or less scattered in eight provinces, including 54 seats in Ontario, 36 in Quebec, 22 in British Columbia, six in Alberta, four in Saskatchewan, three each in Manitoba and New Brunswick, and one in Newfoundland and Labrador. The Liberals won 54 of these 129 ridings, the Conservatives 38, the New Democrats 29 and the Bloc eight.

Meanwhile, an Abacus Data Poll released last week indicated that if an election were held today, 43 per cent would vote Liberal, 12 points ahead of the Conservatives (31 per cent), and 27 points ahead of the NDP (16 per cent). The survey was conducted online between July 14-18 with 2,036 Canadians aged 18 and over. The margin of error for a comparable probability-based random sample is plus or minus 2.2 per cent 19 times out of 20. The poll showed the Liberals have a strong lead among Millennials and Generation X voters while the Conservatives are competitive among Baby Boomers and those in the Silent Generation. The Trudeau government had 48 per cent approval of its performance and a 34 per cent disapproval and in every region except the Prairie provinces, more people approved than disapproved of the federal government.

arana@hilltimes.com

The Hill Times

The 14 Closest Victories for Liberals in 2015

Riding, MP, margin of victory %

St. John’s East, N.L., Nick Whalen, 1.4%

Chicoutimi-LeFjord, Que., Denis Lemieux, 1.4%

Laurentides-Labelle, Que., David Graham, 2.4%

Québec, Que., Jean-Yves Duclos, 1.9%

Aurora-Oak Ridges-Richmond, Ont., Leona Alleslev. 2.1%

Hastings-Lennox and Addington, Ont., Mike Bossio, 0.5%

Kenora, Ont., Bob Nault, 1.6%

Parkdale-High Park, Ont., Liberal MP Arif Virani, 1.8%

Toronto-Danforth, Ont., Julie Dabrusin, 2.2%

Calgary Centre, Alta., Liberal MP Kent Hehr, 1.2%

Edmonton Centre, Alta., Liberal MP Randy Boissonnault, 2.2%

Edmonton Mill Woods, Alta., Liberal MP Amarjeet Sohi, 0.2%

Mission-Matsqui-Fraser Canyon, B.C.,  Liberal MP Jati Sidhu, 2.3%

Pitt Meadows-Maple Ridge, B.C., Liberal MP Dan Ruimy, 2.5%

—Compiled by Abbas Rana

70 ridings won by 5% or less in 2015

Riding, MP, margin of victory %

St. John’s East, N.L., Liberal MP Nick Whalen, 1.4%

Fundy Royal, N.B., Liberal MP Alaina Lockhart, 3.8%

Abitibi-Baie-James-Nunavik-Eeyou, Que., NDP MP Romeo Saganash, 4.9%

Beloeil-Chambly, Que., NDP MP Matthew Dubé, 1.7%

Chicoutimi-Le Fjord, Que., Liberal MP Denis Lemieux, 1.4%

Drummond, Que., NDP MP Francois Choquette, 3.9%

Hochelaga, Que., NDP MP Marjolaine Boutin-Sweet, 1.0%

Jonquière, Que., NDP MP Karine Trudel, 0.7%

La Pointe-de-l’Île, Que., Bloc MP Mario Beaulieu, 5.0%

Lac-Saint Jean, Que., Conservative MP Denis Lebel, 4.8%

Laurentides-Labelle, Que., Liberal MP David Graham, 2.4%

Longueuil-Saint-Hubert, Que., NDP MP Pierre Nantel, 1.2%

Mirabel, Que., Bloc MP Simon Marcil, 1.4%

Montarville, Que., Liberal MP Michel Picard, 4.1%

Montmagny-L’Islet-Kamouraska-Riviere-du-Loup, Que., Conservative MP Bernard Généroux, 0.6%

Pierre-Boucher-Les Patriotes-Vercheres, Que., Bloc MP Xavier Barsalou-Duval, 0.4%

Québec, Que., Liberal MP Jean-Yves Duclos, 1.9%

Rivière-des-Mille-Îles, Que., Liberal MP Linda Lapointe, 2.9%

Riviere-du-Nord, Que., Bloc MP Rhéal Fortin, 1.9%

Saint-Hyacinthe-Bagot, Que., NDP MP Brigitte Sansoucy, 1.1%

Saint-Jean, Que., Liberal MP Jean Rioux, 4.1%

Salaberry-Suroit, Que., NDP MP Anne Quach, 1.3%

Terrebonne, Que., Bloc MP Michel Boudrias, 5.0%

Trois-Rivières, Que., NDP MP Robert Aubin, 1.6%

Aurora-Oak Ridges-Richmond Hill, Ont., Liberal MP Leona Alleslev, 2.1%

Barrie-Springwater-Oro-Medonte, Ont., Conservative MP Alex Nuttall, 0.2%

Burlington, Ont., Liberal MP Karina Gould, 3.5%

Cambridge, Ont., Liberal MP Bryan May, 4.5%

Carleton, Ont., Conservative MP Pierre Poilievre, 3.1%

Flamborough-Glanbrook, Ont., Conservative MP David Sweet, 4.3%

Hamilton Mountain, Ont., NDP MP Scott Duvall, 2.4%

Chatham-Kent-Leamington, Ont., Conservative MP Dave Van Kesteren, 4.5%

Davenport, Ont.   Liberal MP Julie Dzerowicz, 2.9%

Hastings-Lennonx and Addington, Ont., Liberal MP Mike Bossio, 0.5%

Kenora, Ont., Liberal MP Bob Nault, 1.6%

King-Vaughan, Ont., Liberal MP Deb Schulte, 3.2%

Kitchener-Conestoga, Ont., Conservative MP Harold Albrecht, 0.5%

Milton, Ont., Conservative MP Lisa Raitt, 4.9%

Newmarket-Aurora, Ont., Liberal MP Kyle Peterson, 2.6%

Niagara Centre, Ont., Liberal MP Vance Badawey, 4.2%

Nickel Belt, Ont., Liberal MP Marc Serré, 5.0%

Northumberland-Peterborough South, Ont., Liberal MP Kim Rudd, 3.0%

Oakville North-Burlington, Ont., Liberal MP Pam Damoff, 3.4%

Ottawa Centre, Ont., Liberal MP Catherine McKenna, 4.1%

Parkdale-High Park, Ont., Liberal MP Arif Virani, 1.8%

Parry Sound-Muskoka, Ont., Conservative MP Tony Clement, 4.4%

Richmond Hill, Ont., Liberal MP Majid Jowhari, 3.6%

Simcoe North, Ont., Conservative MP Bruce Stanton, 3.7%

Toronto-Danforth, Ont., Liberal MP Julie Dabrusin, 2.2%

Vaughan-Woodbridge, Ont., Liberal MP Francesco Sorbara, 4.9%

Whitby, Ont., Liberal MP Celina Caesar-Chavannes, 2.9%

York Centre, Ont., Liberal MP Michael Levitt, 2.9%

Churchill-Keewatinook Aski, Man., NDP MP Niki Ashton, 3.0%

Elmwood-Transcona, Man., NDP Daniel Blaikie,  0.1%

Kildonan-St. Paul, Man., Liberal MP MaryAnn Mihychuk, 2.8%

Desenthé-Missinippi-Churchill River, Sask., NDP MP Georgina Jolibois, 0.3%

Regina-Lewvan, Sask., NDP MP Erin Weir, 0.3%

Calgary Centre, Alta., Liberal MP Kent Hehr, 1.2%

Calgary Confederation, Alta., Conservative MP Len Webber, 2.4%

Edmonton Centre, Alta., Liberal MP Randy Boissonnault, 2.2%

Edmonton Mill Woods, Alta., Liberal MP Amarjeet Sohi, 0.2%

Burnaby South, B.C., NDP MP Kennedy Stewart, 1.2%

Central Okanagan-Similkameen-Nicola, B.C., Conservative MP Dan Albas, 2.4%

Coquitlam-Port Coquitlam, B.C., Liberal MP Ron McKinnon, 3.3%

Kamloops-Thompson-Cariboo, B.C., Conservative MP Cathy McLeod, 4.5%

Kootenay-Columbia, B.C., NDP MP Wayne Stetski, 0.4%

Mission –Matsqui-Fraser Canyon, B.C., Liberal MP Jati Sidhu, 2.3%

Pitt Meadows-Maple Ridge, B.C., Liberal MP Dan Ruimy, 2.5%

Richmond Centre, B.C., Conservative MP Alice Wong, 2.8%

South Surrey-White Rock, B.C., Conservative MP Dianne Lynn Watts, 2.5%

—Compiled by Abbas Rana

59 seats won by between 5%-10%

Riding, MP, margin of victory %

New Brunswick Southwest, N.B., Liberal MP Karen Ludwig, 5.4%

Tobique-Mactaquac, N.B., Liberal MP TJ Harvey, 9.6%

Beauport-Côte-de-Beaupré-Île d’Orléans-Charlevoix, Que., Conservative MP Sylvie Boucher, 6.6%

Beauport-Limoilou, Que., Conservative MP Alupa Clarke, 5.1%

Compton-Stanstead, Que., Liberal MP Marie-Claude Bibeau, 9.5%

Gaspésie-Les Îles-de-la-Madeleine, Que., Liberal MP Diane Lebouthillier, 6.2%

Joliette, Que., Bloc MP Gabriel Ste-Marie, Que., 5.1%

Laurier-Sainte-Marie, Que., NDP MP Hélène Laverdière, 9.6%

Longueuil-Charles-LeMoyne, Que., Liberal MP Sherry Romanado, 8.4%

Louis Hébert, Que., Liberal MP Joël Lightbound, 7.7%

Mégantic-L’Érable, Que., Conservative MP Luc Berthold, 7.3%

Montcalm, Que., Bloc MP Luc Thériault, 9.3%

Repentigny, Que., Bloc MP Monique Pauzé, 7.4%

Richmond-Arthabasca, Que., Conservative MP Alain Rayes, 6.9%

Sherbrooke, Que., NDP MP Pierre-Luc-Dusseault, 7.6%

Thérèse-De Blainville, Que., Liberal MP Ramez Ayoub, 5.4%

Algoma-Manitoulin-Kapuskasing, Ont., NDP MP Carol Hughes, 5.8%

Barrie-Innisfil, Ont., Conservative MP John Brassard,  9.3%

Bruce-Grey-Owen Sound, Ont., Conservative MP Larry Miller, 7.8%

Dufferin-Caledon, Ont., Conservative MP David Tilson, 7.2%

Durham, Ont., Conservative MP Erin O’Toole, 9.4%

Eglinton-Lawrence, Ont., Liberal MP Marco Mendicino, 6.3%

Essex, Ont., NDP MP Tracey Ramsey, 5.7%

Haldimand-Norfolk, Ont., Conservative MP Diane Finley, 7.5%

Hamilton East-Stoney Creek, Ont., Liberal MP Bob Bratina, 6.3%

Huron-Bruce, Ont., Conservative MP Ben Lobb, 5.2%

Kitchener South-Hespeler, Ont., Liberal MP Marwan Tabbara, 5.6%

Leeds-Grenville-Thousand Islands and Rideau Lakes, Ont., Conservative MP Gordon Brown, 6.8%

London-Fanshawe, Ont., NDP MP Irene Mathyssen, 6.3%

Markham-Stouffville, Ont., Liberal MP Jane Philpott, 6.4%

Markham-Unionville, Ont., Conservative MP Bob Saroya, 6.0%

Mississauga-Lakeshore, Ont., Liberal MP Sven Spengemann 6.5%

Mississauga-Streetsville, Ont., Liberal MP Gagan Sikand, 7.4%

Niagara Falls, Ont., Conservative MP Rob Nicholson, 7.6%

Oakville, Ont., Liberal MP John Oliver, 6.9%

Oshawa, Ont., Conservative MP Colin Carrie, 6.3%

Perth-Wellington, Ont., Conservative MP John Nater, 5.4%

Peterborough-Kawartha, Ont., Liberal MP Maryam Monsef, 8.8%

St. Catharines, Ont., Liberal MP Chris Bittle, 5.6%

Sarnia-Lambton, Ont., Conservative MP Marilyn Gladu, 7.7%

Simcoe-Grey, Ont., Conservative MP Kellie Leitch, 8.0%

Timmins-James Bay, Ont., NDP MP Charlie Angus, 8.1%

Saskatoon West, Sask., NDP MP Sheri Benson, 6.7%

Saskatoon-University, Sask., Conservative MP Brad Trost, 10.0%

Calgary Skyview, Alta., Liberal MP Darshan Kang, 6.1%

Edmonton Griesbach, Alta., Conservative MP Kerry Diotte, 5.9%

Burnaby North-Seymour, B.C., Liberal MP Terry Beech, 6.5%

Cariboo-Prince George, B.C., Conservative MP Todd Doherty, 5.1%

Chilliwack-Hope, B.C., Conservative MP Mark Strahl, 8.5%

Courtenay-Alberni, B.C., NDP MP Gord Johns, 9.8%

Esquimalt-Saanich-Sooke, B.C., NDP MP Randall Garrison, 7.7%

Kelowna-Lake Country, B.C., Liberal MP Stephen Fuhr, 6.4%

Langley-Aldergrove, B.C., Conservative MP Mark Warawa, 9.1%

Nanaimo-Ladysmith, B.C., NDP MP Sheila Malcolmson, 9.7%

North Okanagan-Shuswap, B.C., Conservative MP Mel Arnold, 9.4%

Port Moody-Coquitlam, B.C., NDP MP    Fin Doonelly, 5.2%

South Okanagan-West Kootenay, B.C., NDP MP Richard Cannings, 7.4%

Steveston-Richmond East, B.C., Liberal MP Joe Peschisolido, 6.6%

Victoria, B.C., NDP MP Murray Rankin, 9.4%

—Compiled by Abbas Rana

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