I live in the federal electoral district of Pontiac, which includes the rural counties and reserves of the Outaouais north and west of Gatineau, plus some suburban neighbourhoods in Gatineau. It’s about one-third anglophone, with a large concentration of rural anglophones, especially here in the namesake Pontiac MRC (an MRC is basically a county) that have much in common culturally with people on the Ontario side of the Ottawa Valley. The presence of those voters, who tend to vote Conservative, has made for some interesting electoral dynamics in the past.
In 2006, for example, Pontiac would have elected a Bloc Québécois member of Parliament by a narrow margin, were it not for the presence of the Pontiac MRC, which voted massively and definitively in favour of the Conservative candidate, Lawrence Cannon, who went on to serve in Stephen Harper’s cabinet.1
In 2011, however, Pontiac switched from the Conservatives to the NDP, electing Mathieu Ravignat as part of the Orange Wave. Ravignat more than tripled the 2008 NDP result, but was defeated after a single term, losing to Liberal Will Amos in 2015, an election where voter turnout was up by some 12,000 votes and Amos increased the Liberal vote count by four and a half times.2
Pontiac has always been a bellwether riding, and in at least one way the Orange Wave, while following the provincial trend, was an anomaly: it was the first time since Robert Borden (!) that it had not elected an MP from the party that went on to form a majority government. Thanks to those rural, conservative, anglophone voters, it was Conservative during the Mulroney years, the Diefenbaker years, and even the R. B. Bennett years.3 Otherwise the seat has been held by the Liberals, with varying degrees of comfort.
All of which is to say that this is a more interesting electoral district than you might think. In my time here I’ve seen MPs from three different parties. The electoral math suggests that the Liberals are likely to hold this seat in 2019, but they would be foolish to take that for granted.4 Anything can happen under the right circumstances.
So far the announced candidates are:
- Will Amos (Liberal), the incumbent MP, was first elected in 2015 with 54.5 percent of the vote; prior to that he was an environmental lawyer.
- Mario Belec (People’s Party) ran provincially for the Conservative Party of Quebec in Gatineau last year; he came sixth with two percent of the vote.
- Claude Bertrand (Green), a retired air force pilot from La Pêche.
- Dave Blackburn (Conservative), a former military officer and associate professor of social work at the Université du Québec en Outaouais, where his work focuses on the mental health of military personnel and first responders.
- Jonathan Carreiro-Benoît (Bloc Québécois), a history student at Laval. In 2018 he ran provincially for the Parti Québécois in Gatineau; he came fourth with nine percent of the vote.
- Denise Giroux (NDP), a Cantley-based employment relations officer for a public-sector union.
- Louis Lang (Marxist-Leninist) ran for the Marxist-Leninists in 2015, finishing last with 0.17 percent of the vote, and is a perennial candidate at the provincial level, having run in 1989, 1994, 2003, 2012 and 2018.
The election takes place on Monday, October 21.
Previously: How the Pontiac MRC Voted in 2015.
(Updated 4 Oct to reflect final list of candidates.)
- Cannon won the Pontiac MRC with 55 percent of the vote, and the entire riding with 33.7 percent; whereas the Bloc Québécois candidate, Christine Émond-Lapointe, only got 6.7 percent of the vote in the Pontiac MRC, and 28.7 percent overall. The Liberal incumbent did poorly across the board.
- Vote percentages are less meaningful when voter turnout is volatile.
- Barry Moore held the Pontiac–Gatineau–Labelle seat during the Mulroney years (1984–1993); Paul Martineau held Pontiac–Témiscamingue from Diefenbaker’s landslide through Pearson’s first minority (1958–1965), winning by a tie-breaking vote by the returning officer in 1963; Charles Bélec held the seat for the Conservatives during the R. B. Bennett years (1930–1935).
- That was, I suspect, Ravignat’s downfall: in my view he was a lacklustre presence in the constituency. Amos has, in comparison, put in the work.