For the fourth federal election in a row, the Conservative Party of Canada is set to win the Kitchener-Conestoga riding on voting day even with waning national support for the party.
In the 2011 federal election, local Conservative candidate Harold Albrecht won with more than 50 per cent of the vote. Barry Kay, associate professor of political science at Wilfrid Laurier University (WLU), says he will most likely win the seat again on Oct. 19, but probably by a smaller margin.
“The Conservatives have slipped in Ontario a little bit since the last election,” he said after Monday night’s federal leader’s debate. “They are picking up in the last day or so, but Kitchener-Conestoga is blue throughout. The Conservatives should be ahead (after the election) I would say, by at least 15 to 20 points. It is the safest Conservative seat in the immediate Kitchener-Waterloo area.”
Local demographics play a big part in how constituents vote, says Kay. Rural and family-oriented communities are more likely to cast blue ballots.
“The urban-rural distinction is really one of the most telling,” he said. “If you look at (the prediction maps released by WLU), you see huge swaths of blue because rural areas are bigger geographically. The Liberals tend to do really well in cities and in Atlantic Canada, and the Conservatives do really well where people are more sparsely populated. Kitchener-Conestoga is an example of that.”
The population in rural areas is stable, whereas in cities, Kay says voters don’t lay down the same kind of roots.
“People who are single are more likely to vote Liberal or NDP, and people who live in highrises are the same,” he said, adding that there are also less people who identify as LGBTQ or as a visible minority in a rural constituency. “The numbers in rural areas are more traditional than in downtown cores. Kitchener-Conestoga and more rural areas (of the riding) don’t have that kind of demographic mix.”
Conservative candidate Albrecht has been elected in Kitchener-Conestoga for the last four trips to the polling stations, but Kay says chances are, the Conservative party would still win the seat with a different candidate.
“This isn’t just for the Conservative candidate, it is for the other candidates as well,” said Kay, mentioning that the federal party leaders hold much more sway over a voter’s ballot. “The candidate only matters for about five per cent (of the vote), if that. The leader is huge in terms of shaping the vote. It is hard to put a fixed percentage because the leader bleeds into party loyalty and can bleed into the issues. Most of the time, it is party and national leader factors that will make a difference.”
On a national scale, the Conservatives are predicted to win 126 seats compared to the 2011 election’s 166 seats. The Laurier Institute for the Study of Public Opinion and Policy (LISPOP) predicts the NDP will hold steady at 106 seats compared to 103 seats last election. The Liberal party is predicted to see a surge in seats, jumping from 34 in 2011 to 104.
To see a map of election predictions divided by riding from the Laurier Institute for the Study of Public Opinion and Policy, visit www.lispop.ca.