With less than five percentage points separating the Conservatives and Liberals in the riding, Kitchener-Conestoga has become too close to call with less than two weeks before the federal election.
In his latest seat projections released Tuesday, Wilfrid Laurier University political scientist Barry Kay shifted the forecast for the riding, which had been leaning Conservative. That being the case, he still sees incumbent MP Harold Albrecht as likely to keep his seat.
“I would certainly put the Conservatives ahead at this point … in Kitchener-Conestoga.”
The close race is reminiscent of the 2015 election, in which Albrecht took 43.3 per cent, while Liberal challenger Tim Louis got 42.8 per cent.
Over time, however, the nature of the riding is likely to shift, making it less likely to be as Conservative-friendly as it has been – Albrecht has held it since 2006 – due to demographic shifts, Kay added.
“The riding’s changing. There’s more and more suburbanization, and that’s likely to change … how it votes,” he said, pointing to the Kitchener urban component gaining strength over the rural portions of the riding.
That would be indicative of an already established divide between rural and urban parts of the country, with suburban areas – particularly the likes of the so-called 905 area around Toronto – providing swing votes.
Nationally, Kay’s projections show a slight shift of one or two seats in favour of the Conservatives in the past week based on recent polling numbers, though the polls don’t yet reflect the televised leaders’ debate from October 7.
The update data on the Laurier Institute for the Study of Public Opinion and Policy site puts the Liberals in a minority government situation with 156 seats, down from 184 it took in 2015. Kay’s projection has the Conservatives at 137 seats (99 in 2015), the NDP at 18 (44), the Bloc Quebecois at 20 (10), the Greens with five (one), the People’s Party of Canada with one and one independent.
The Bloc’s resurgence in Quebec will take seats away from the NDP, he predicted, with PPC leader Maxime Bernier retaining his seat despite switching from the Conservatives. The Green Party’s projected five seats would come from British Columbia, also eating into NDP support.
Ontario is likely to be the difference-maker in ultimately deciding who holds power after October 21.