I’m back to deliver my thoughts on the rest of the province. You can refer to part 1, Montreal riding watch here.
As I’ve mentioned yesterday, Jean Charest will not be intervening in this election because of his poor reputation at this time as well as the deal he signed with the Harpercons regarding Old Harry just before the writ was dropped.
However, Quebec City Mayor, Regis Labeaume, is certainly not part of this deal. Will he go all Danny Williams in and around Quebec City due to not only Stevie’s refusal to fund the hockey arena in Quebec City, but also, all the stalling and games Stevie played around with this file.
Another thing to be noted, Mario Dumont, former leader of the ADQ who shamelessly brown nosed all things Harpercon in the 2008 election is now out of politics. Even if he uses his television show for partisan purposes these days, and I wouldn’t it past him, I don’t think it will have much of an impact as Canal V which carries his show, is not that successful a channel to begin with and his show apparently isn’t doing all that well. This season, he saw his show’s format get reduced from one hour to a mere thirty minutes.
Another question to be asking is will that new Old Harry deal make any impact in the Lower St-Lawrence and Gaspesie ridings, where unemployment tends to be chronically high? Not that this deal, by any stretch of the imagination, will make Quebec an instant have province. In fact, the deal is still quite abstract. Environmental assesments have to be done and then there will surely be the inevitbale boundary disputes with Newfoundland/Laborador. In other words, those folks in the Gaspesie region would probably remain with their employment challenges for awhile to come.
How about the Saguenay-Lac-St-Jean region? Once known to be the separatist heartland? Presently, two Harpercon incumbents will be fighting to keep their seats.
On to the festivities!
The Laval Area
The Laval area ridings are usually interesting races to watch as most of them tend to be swing ridings. Expect no different.
Laval Ouest-Les Isles This usually safe Liberal riding will be of particular interest, given the long time Liberal incumbent, Raymonde Folco’s sudden announcement that she will not be running for re-election. As of today, neither the Liberals nor the Harpercons have found candidates to run in this riding.
Brossard-Laprairie: Like Ahuntsic, in 2008, the vote count between Liberal incumbent Alexandra Mendes and the Bloc candidate was so close, a recount was necessary. The Bloc will be seeking to have their seat back. Although, to date, the Bloc has not nominated a candidate.
Trivia: the Harpercons’ candidate, I have to say, never has a name fit so well to a riding. His name is Maurice Brossard. I kid you not. Most of the constituents didn’t see him as a good fit though; he finished a distant third.
St-Hyacinthe-Bagot: Well, I think any rumours of Mario Dumont being parachuted to run as Stevie’s star candidate here can be put to rest.
This riding has been a Bloc stronghold since 1993, before then, it was held by Progressive Conservative, Andree Champagne. The Bloc incumbent, Eve-Marie Thai Thi Lac won in 2008 by 47%. Then Harpercon candidate, Rene Vincelette came in a distant second and his party saw their vote count drop by over 10 points.
However, this time, the Harpercons seek to take back this riding after all those years for the blue team and have brought in a star, former president of the largest police union, the l’Association des policieres et policiers provinciaux du Quebec, Jean-Guy Dagenais, whom some of my readers have probably already read about over at Dammit Janet’s and Cowboys for Social Responsibility. What is ‘special’ about Messieur Dagenais is that once upon a time, he was a very strong advocate for the Long gun registry when he was president of this police union. Now, he has proven to be a quick study on how to be a good Harpercon puppet, now becoming the anti-gun control poster child for Quebec Harpercons.
St-Hyacinthe-Bagot, is largely composed of small towns and rural terratory. Many hunters from the region who happen to like their guns. Given the spectacle made of Dagenais’s 180 on the Long Gun Registry, expect that to be a sole issue at play here. Will Dagenais win? I don’t think so, as I don’t think the long gun registry is a make it or break it for these people, but I expect the race between the Harpercons and the Bloc to be signicantly tightened.
Brome-Missisquoi: a two-man battle between former Liberal MP Denis Paradis and the Bloc Quebecois’s Christian Ouellet since 2004. Paradis lost to Ouellet in 2006 and in 2008. The latter being a close race where Ouellet saw his vote count go down by a little over 3% and Paradis saw his go up by close to 5%. Now Ouellet has retired and the Bloc has nominated the former NDP candidate in this riding, Christelle Bogosta, who came in fourth place in 2008. Will switching parties help Mme Bogosta (it should be noted that it didn’t work so well for Jean-Claude Rocheleau, the former NDP candidate for Hochelaga who attempted to run for the BQ nom in La Pointe de l’Isle)? Or, given the improved count of Paradis and declining count of Ouellet, will this be the break for Paradis’s return?
Quebec City and Surrounding Area
As many of you know, most of the Harpercon seats in la Belle Province are held in this region. It’s also probably going to be the most widely watched region in all of Quebec come election night. After months of tap dancing around the issue, Stevie Spiteful finally said he was not going to fund the Quebec City hockey arena. Mayor Regis Labeaume had already launched the first strike calling Stevie’s move ‘political suicide’. The question is, how Danny Williams will Mayor Labeaume go?
Beauport-Limoilou: This riding was targetted as vulnerable for the Harpercons long before the arena debacle by Catch 22 Conservatives, as it was a close race for the Harpercon incumbent, Sylvie Boucher in 2008.
It is to be noted that all these Quebec City ridings will be close races and to date, the only Quebec City Harpercon seat that is safe at the moment is Josee Verner’s in Louis St-Laurent. Every one of those other ridings in the region, recent polls have seen Harpercon support drop in favour of the Bloc.
Portneuf-Jacques Cartier: Incumbent independent MP, Andre Arthur won in 2008 by a slim margin to the Bloc’s Richard Cote and also saw his vote count go down by over 6%. Perhaps no longer the folksie popular dude he once was. Another thing to note, as many know, is that the Harpercons did not run a candidate in 2008.
We can put the rumour of Andre Arthur running as a Harpercon this time around to rest; he’s running yet again, as an independent and will be facing Richard Cote again. There is still no word as to whether or not the Harpercons are running a candidate in this rural riding. If so, this could further help Messieur Cote.
There are a few current issues that can help the Bloc take this riding from Andre Arthur this May as well.
Unlike the provincial capital itself, Portneuf – Jacques-Cartier was vulnerable to the recession, and the Bloc’s recent calls for more funding for the forestry industry resonates with constituents, who recently went through the shutdown of Donnacona’s paper mill
I dunno, personally, I think it would be kinda foolish for the Harpercons to run someone here, as conservative support in the area has dropped since the arena debacle. Also, somehow, I don’t think the Harpercons will be looked upon favourably following the closure of the Donnacona paper mill. But Hey! Do it, and I think Richard Cote will be a happy man.
Lower St-Lawrence and Gaspesie
The Gaspesie portion, as mentioned above is generally plagued with chronic unemployments. After spending a great length of time in the region during my travels in the 90s, I can say that I would be very surprised if any of those ridings turned Harpercon, even with the Old Harry deal. Remember, as I’ve mentioned above, no one is going to see any money from that for a long time to come, so it’s all still academic at this time.
Montmagny-L’Islet-Kamouraska-Riviere-du-Loup: This riding down river was a long time Bloc Quebecois stronghold until the former mayor of La Pocatiere took the riding in the November 2009 by-elections. Voter turn-out in that by-election was a measly 36.6%. Furthermore, he ended up winning the seat at the eleventh hour. This riding is also targetted by Catch 22 and I blogged about how that by-election pretty much went down at their site. You can catch my post here.
Now Genereux must run in a general election, where all hands will not be on deck. Voter turn out could could well be higher. The last provincial by-election in the riding of Kamouraska-Temiscouata had nearly 60% voter turn-out where the Parti-Quebecois squeaked past the Liberals in a very tight race, despite the metro car job Charest had sent to Bombardier in La Pocatiere. Would that result give the Bloc Quebecois back their seat? This will be a real test for Genereux.
Nathalie Arsenault, a former municipal councilor in St-Jean-Port-Joli is the Bloc candidate Genereux will be running against. Being from St-Jean-Port-Joli, I wonder if she’ll play the Harpercon arts and culture cut card? St-Jean-Port-Joli, in addition to being rural, it is also considered an artists’ sanctuary and a thriving one at that.
Haute-Gaspésie-la MitisMatane-Matapédia: This particular riding was Progressive Conservative pretty much during the Mulroney years and also had been in Liberal hands. In the past years, it had been a Bloc riding. So I guess this would fall under the heading of swing riding.
Bloc incumbent, Jean-Yves Roy left last Fall due to health reasons and it had been rumoured that Gilles Duceppe had forced him out the door due to his absenteism. If true, could the constituency make the Bloc’s new guy, Jean-Francois Fortin pay for this at the polls? Or is it more than that?
In 2008, former Liberal MNA and Liberal candidate, Nancy Charest came in a close second to Roy and her vote count went up by over 22% in 2008 while Roy’s went down by 8.5%. Nancy Charest will be back to face Fortin in the upcoming election.
But hold on! Both Mme Charest and Messieur Fortin could have their hands full in a three way race. While not too many pundits for the Harpercons are paying attention to this riding, they have nominated a semi-star candidate to run against them; enter Allen Cormier. A native of Chandler, who is a former journalist with local papers in Rimouski and Chandler, staffer to former Liberal MNA, Andre Beaudin of Gaspe, and yes, a firefighter to boot (of course, Harpercons do love their super heroes, don’t they?).
I strongly believe this will be a tight three way race. Once upon a time, I believed that the Bloc would take the riding again, now I’m saying it’s too close to call. Any one of those three can take it.
To date, there is no NDP candidate.
Roberval-Lac-St-Jean: Another riding targetted by Catch 22. In 2008, Harpercon incumbent, Denis Lebel only won this riding by less than 2000 votes against the Bloc’s Claude Pilote. Lebel saw his vote count go down by nearly 16% as Pilote saw his party’s count go up by just over 12.5%. Claude Pilote is up for a rematch.
Pontiac: Also targetted by Catch 22. Incumbent and former Harpercon foreign affairs minister, Lawrence ‘Loose’ Cannon has been many challenges as of late, many of which he hasn’t been handling all that well. Could this be an opportunity for either Liberal Cindy Duncan-MacMillan or the Bloc candidate, Maude Tremblay?
Gatineau: Bloc incumbent Richard Nadeau has been facing off against Francoise Boivin since 2004, when she won as a Liberal. She lost in 2006 and then crossed the floor to the NDP in 2008. She lost again to Messieur Nadeau in a tight three way race with Nadeau and Liberal candidate, Michel Simard.
Nadeau and Boivin will be facing Liberal candidate, Steve MacKinnon, a former staffer under Frank McKenna’s Liberal government in New Brunswick.
Mme Boivin has been touted as a possibility to take the second Quebec seat for the NDP this time around.
I predict this to be another tight three way race, but I don’t want to call it just now.
Those are my Quebec riding watches. Surely I will be posting updates as this campaign moves along. Perhaps even some dark horses in this race.