Federal public sector unions are working to get out their vote on and before Oct. 19, hoping to use their large numbers in certain Ottawa-area ridings to swing the vote away from the Conservatives. The unions, embroiled in a years-long fight with the Conservative government over cuts to the bureaucracy and contentious bargaining over its sick leave regime, have been raising awareness among members since before the writ was dropped in August. With one week until election day, Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada (PIPSC) president Debi Daviau said she and her members are “dumping the entire arsenal out of the cannon” in the lead-up to Oct. 19. High turnout from public servants could be bad news for Conservative seats in the National Capital Region, a former senior Conservative said, speaking on a not-for-attribution basis. “If they get mobilized, tight races could be won by a few hundred votes,” the source said. Polls show there are at least a couple of those in ridings where thousands of public servants are eligible to vote. In Nepean, a riding without an incumbent candidate after former Foreign Affairs minister John Baird retired from politics earlier this year, the Liberals hold a two-point lead over the Conservatives, according to Eric Grenier of polling aggregator ThreeHundredEight.com. In neighbouring Kanata-Carleton, also without an incumbent after Gordon O'Connor retired and Conservative Pierre Poilievre—the regional minister for the National Capital Region—chose to run in the more rural Carleton riding after Elections Canada’s redistribution, the Liberals and Conservatives are separated by a point. PIPSC has 3,263 members in Nepean and the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC), the largest public sector union, has 2,700 members in the riding, according to data provided by each organization. In Kanata-Carleton, PIPSC has 2,306 members and PSAC has 1,900. Using its roughly 27,000 members in the Ottawa area, PIPSC is targeting four ridings where approximately 10,000 of them will vote: Orleans, Ottawa West-Nepean, Nepean, and Carleton. In Orleans, Liberal star candidate Andrew Leslie appears poised to unseat Conservative incumbent Royal Galipeau with a 15-point lead, according to Mr. Grenier’s numbers last week. Liberal Anita Vandenbeld leads Conservative Abdul Abdi in Ottawa West-Nepean by more than 12 points. In Carleton, Mr. Poilievre is polling at 53 per cent to Liberal Chris Rodgers’ 30.6 per cent, with NDP candidate KC Larocque at 20.4 per cent, again according to ThreeHundredEight. PIPSC and PSAC have both been running campaigns to engage members since before the election was called on Aug. 2, highlighting issues including cuts to jobs and services, the muzzling of federal scientists and the general erosion of the public service’s role, and negotiations over sick leave. PIPSC released two radio ads critical of the government last month that ran in the Ottawa area, and another one is coming for the campaign’s final push, Ms. Daviau said. Both unions have also been hosting telephone town halls to discuss election issues and the party positions with members, and running a “Vote for Public Services” lawn sign campaign. PSAC is also advertising on bus shelters across the country in ridings with a considerable number of members and where there have been cuts to services, national president Robyn Benson said in an interview last week. On Oct. 7, leaders from those and several other unions held a press conference at an Elections Canada office to promote early voting at advance ballots over the weekend. Both unions want a change in government but say they aren’t telling members how to vote. “We’re going to make sure that people have all the information they need for themselves to make their own choices,” Ms. Daviau said in an interview last week. “So yes, we will be encouraging them to make a strategic choice in this election because that’s what it’s going to take to unseat this government, but we will not even come close to telling them who that choice is. But what we will be doing is putting that information in their hands so they can figure it out for themselves.” The Conservatives have noticed, with Prime Minister Stephen Harper writing an open letter to “our world-class” public servants earlier this month that praises their “hard work, dedication and integrity” while correcting “misleading statements” about sick leave and pensions. Both Ms. Daviau and Ms. Benson dismissed the letter as a last-ditch effort, and the Conservative source said it was likely motivated by the response local candidates are reporting at the door after the Liberals and NDP outlined their public service-friendly platforms. Ms. Daviau said it shows the union campaign is working. “They felt their hand forced on this, and I think they did it because the candidates in this region had a lot of doors slammed in their face and they’re starting to worry,” she said. Ian Lee, a public policy expert at Carleton University’s Sprott School of Business who has written widely about the federal public service, said the Prime Minister’s letter was a “tactical manoeuvre” to address “the extreme rumours” that the Conservatives are “are on a warpath against the public service,” but that it likely wouldn’t swing many votes. Prof. Lee said the Liberals are likely to pick up two or three area seats with a high concentration of public servants—Orleans, Ottawa West-Nepean and Nepean—from the Conservatives, though he wasn’t sure how much of that should be credited to the union campaigns. “It’s not so much the campaign itself and the campaign strategies as it is the legacy of the last four years,” he said. Earlier this month, some Conservative insiders told The Hill Times the party could be left with a single seat after Oct. 19 among the eight on the Ottawa side of the National Capital Region: Ottawa Centre, Ottawa South, Ottawa-Vanier, Ottawa West-Nepean, Orléans, Nepean, Carleton, and Kanata-Carleton. One said the party was putting a lot of resources into Mr. Abdi’s Ottawa West-Nepean race, a riding that now includes more urban voters than in 2011. Several high-profile Conservatives including Laureen Harper, Defence Minister Jason Kenney, former Industry minister James Moore, Social Development Minister Candice Bergen, Mr. Poilievre, Mr. Baird and Ontario PC Leader Patrick Brown have visited, and some ministerial staffers have been door-knocking in the evenings. The Conservative source said some area candidates are finding comfort in what non-Conservative voters are telling them at the door about their voting intentions, hoping that a Liberal-NDP split could allow Conservatives to eke out close wins. But Ms. Daviau said she’s confident that the unions will get the results they’re looking for in the targeted ridings. “Despite some of those having been very strong Conservative holds on that turf, it’s looking very possible that we’re going to turn these ridings over, all of them,” she said, noting that Mr. Poilievre was still polling strongly in his riding. “I think the polls aren’t going to demonstrate the kind of passion that’s going to come out to public servants and drive them to the polls in droves this year.” email@example.com The Hill Times Clarification: This story has been updated to reflect the fact that most of the new Kanata-Carleton riding comes from the old Carleton-Mississippi Mills riding, where Gordon O'Connor was the incumbent.