Waterloo Votes 2008:
Part 1: Kitchener Centre

Ballot Box

Hill and Knowlton have again released their flash-based election predictor. Political junkies will have a whale of a time feeding in various numbers to see what brings about a Conservative minority, a Liberal majority, or whathaveyou.

The results are to be taken with a grain of salt, of course, but I did notice one thing I’d like to comment on. If you feed in this latest poll from Nanos (hat tip Greg Staples), which has the parties stacked as follows:

Conservatives: 35%
Liberals: 30%
New Democrats: 22%
Bloc Quebecois: 7%
Greens: 6%

…you get an interesting hung parliament, where the Conservatives have 116 seats to the Liberals 104. The NDP rockets to their best showing ever, with 49 seats, while the Bloc Quebecois drops sharply to 39 seats.

Thus the Liberals and the NDP fall two seats short of a working majority, but any possible Conservative-Bloc alliance would be finely balanced. I also note that this scenario breaks the Conservative monopoly on Alberta, granting one seat in Edmonton to the NDP (and, I’m sure the riding in question would make Idealistic Pragmatist very happy indeed).

But, take a look at the colours on the map. This scenario, or one where the Conservatives get 34% support and Others 1%, would likely incense partisan Conservatives, some of whom could speak darkly about stupid Ontario voters, or western alienation or even separatism. However, notice how there are two seas of blue, here?

The second sea is none other than southern Ontario. From the tip of Essex to the easternmost reaches of Stormont-Dundas-Glengarry, the Conservatives have a contiguous line of seats: 36 in total under the first scenario — almost as many as the number of seats held in Alberta and Saskatchewan.

So, let’s not talk too much about western alienation if the results don’t go your way. What you’ll likely see come election day is not an east-west split, but an urban-rural one. And that’s one that doesn’t lend itself easily to separation.

On Kitchener Centre

In related news, I have been asked to blog at Democratic Space as part of their coverage of the 2008 campaign. My goal is to provide a eye to the campaign from my corner of the world, the Regional Municipality of Waterloo. My post is here.

The Region of Waterloo takes in the cities of Kitchener, Waterloo and Cambridge, along with the rural townships of North Dumfries, Wilmot, Wellesley and Woolwich. Its urban areas are a hotbed of manufacturing and high tech industry and the area leads the province in having one of the lowest levels of unemployment. The Perimeter Institute, two universities and Conestoga College make this a strong academic centre as well, with Waterloo being named as one of the “most intelligent” cities in the world. And yet, the rural townships with their Mennonite communities, still have an influence in the character of the cities. We don’t have to drive far for countryside, and we are still known for our farms and food processing. Oh, and we have the largest Oktoberfest in the western hemisphere.

In 2004, the region passed a small milestone when the sprawling riding of Waterloo-Wellington was cut back to the region’s borders, forming the riding that would become Kitchener-Conestoga. This move gave the region four distinct ridings — the same as Prince Edward Island, the smallest province in Confederation (even though Waterloo Region has four times the population). It’s a small point, but it highlights the region’s growing sense of self — almost a provincialist sense of self, here.

Currently, the four ridings are split between two Liberals and two Conservatives. The two Liberals reside in Kitchener Centre (Karen Redman) and Kitchener-Waterloo (Andrew Telegdi) while the Conservatives reside in urban Cambridge (Gary Goodyear) and very rural Kitchener-Conestoga (Harold Albrecht). Waterloo Region would seem to embody the urban-rural split that I discussed earlier in this post. I would be very surprised if any riding changed hands this election, as only Cambridge is in any way competitive for the incumbent.

Kitchener Center

Kitchener Centre in particular can be considered one of the safer Liberal seats in the country. For the past fifteen years, the New Democrats have always run a spirited campaign for the riding, they’ve always run good candidates, they’ve always generated buzz, and they’ve always finished third. I believe, from experience, that there is a large group of voters in Kitchener-Waterloo, who don’t get excited about politics, who don’t campaign or put up lawn signs, but who in the end go down to the polling stations and vote Liberal. I also believe that the second largest group of people in Kitchener-Waterloo have come to accept this. They don’t get excited about politics; they don’t campaign or put up lawn signs either, but at the end of the day, they go down to the polling stations and vote Conservative. That explains the voting patterns I’ve seen since moving here.

So, if the Liberals lose Kitchener Centre, you can rest assured that the party is in trouble.

The current campaign has been pretty quiet. Stephen Harper came through here the other day, and it was barely talked about. Karen Redman was late in putting up her campaign signs, but experience tells me that this doesn’t matter. Here is a list of who’s running:

Karen Redman, 55 (Liberal): Karen Redman has represented the riding of Kitchener Centre for eleven years, taking over from Liberal MP John English, who retired from politics. Before that, she has experience on municipal council. She is not been a very visible MP, and has been criticized by commentators on this blog for being little more than a party voice box, but she has maintained her political relationships in this riding, and has a general aura of being a capable individual, well suited to being the MP. She has introduced a number of private members bills in parliament.

Stephen Woodworth, 54 (Conservative): Stephen Woodworth has been a lawyer for twenty-eight years. He served as a school trustee from 1994 to 2003 and is happily married. There’s not much to go on from his rather anaemic biography, and strangely enough his website doesn’t even mention Harper’s visit to Kitchener. The bulk of his campaign’s news releases has contrasted Karen Redman’s positions to that of her leader Stephane Dion, but offers little else. His signs are going up in the riding, and he seems a nice guy, but we don’t get a good sense of who he is and why he should be the riding’s MP. Anaemic, as I said.

Oz Cole-Arnal (New Democrats): Oscar Cole-Arnal is a name I haven’t heard before, but he’s carrying the NDP’s banner in Kitchener Centre. He’s a 67-year-old Lutheran minister who taught at Wilfred Laurier University. He calls himself “a passionate activist for racial, ethnic, gender, trade union, environmental and class justice,” and remembers where he was when Martin Luther King was shot. Though he doesn’t have the name recognition (at least for me) as riding president Richard Walsh-Bowers did, he may make some noise in this campaign. Intriguingly, he’s on Facebook and has a blog.

John Bithell, 32 (Greens): This manager from an auto parts company has thrown his hat into the ring for the Green Party, which I would think is an odd combination, unless he’s hoping his plant’s parts will be used for green vehicles. He’s also been involved in the region’s Food Bank and is a founding member of the Speakers Bureau, which “gives John the chance to go out into the community on a regular basis and speak to diverse groups such as schools, local businesses, and community organizations, and deliver the message of the Food Bank of Waterloo Region”. Unfortunately, other than what the Greens can offer, his web presence is rather sketchy.

So, what do you think of immigration, John? As of September 23, this website says he believes: “Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetuer adipiscing elit. Nulla arcu libero, gravida et, mollis ac, imperdiet eu, felis. Pellentesque convallis nisl sit amet libero. Phasellus augue.” Which I believe means that he’s all for it, especially from Latin American countries.

Amanda Lamka (Independent): Running on her own, according to Pundit’s Guide is Amanda Lamka. It’s proven rather difficult to find out who she is or what she stands for (her Facebook page can’t be viewed without her approval), but you see her name appear in social justice circles

The campaign may be heated elsewhere, but not here. The lawn signs are going up; all four parties are represented, and nobody has even tried to knock a sign down, as far as I can see. Even in the next riding over, you can see more signs of election vandalism as some campaign workers get more heated. And we’ll cover those ridings next time, starting for the race in Kitchener-Waterloo.

Further Reading

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