Photo: Tina Wallace/Fulcrum

We spoke to candidates running in ridings dominated by another party about how they can get their message out to voters 

One of the fascinating things about the Canadian Parliamentary system is that every riding is theoretically in play in a general election. However, only a small number of toss-up ridings, usually found in Quebec and the Toronto area, determine the true outcome of the election. 

Most ridings are considered safe for one party, given a number of factors that vary from the riding demographics to the local economy to the location riding and the candidates running. 

Usually, non-favoured candidates in these ridings are up against other parties’ political machines and are, to put it in simple terms, the underdogs. But, every once in a while, one of these underdog candidates is elected.

For example, in 2011 with the orange wave, Ruth-Ellen Brosseau, an NDP “paper candidate,” was elected in Berthier—Maskinongé without ever setting foot in the riding. Brosseau, an Ottawa resident at the time, was a bartender at the now-defunct Pier 21 club in ByWard Market.  

Adam Veilleux is the Liberal candidate in Quebec’s Beauce riding. Beauce hasn’t elected a Liberal MP since 2004 and Veilleux is looking to dethrone a political institution in PPC leader Maxime Bernier.

In 2015, Bernier won the riding with 58.9 per cent of the vote. But with a strong Conservative challenger breathing down his neck, the right-wing vote has been split.

The surge of the Bloc Quebecois vote in Quebec has been eating away at the right-wing vote in the district and a perfect split of the votes between the three current front-runners could create a narrow path for the Liberal candidate in Beauce to victory. 

“I could very well win with just 26 per cent of the vote,” an optimistic Veilleux said in an interview with the Fulcrum. “The Bloc’s vote has been eating away at the other parties voting intentions and the Liberal vote here is pretty stable.”

Veilleux, in his second run for office, has been campaigning mostly to local businesses, meeting people at grocery stores, arenas, and on pedestrian walkways.

“In 2015, I used to go up to people and have to introduce myself like ‘hi, I’m Adam, I’m running for the Liberal Party,’ but like this time around people seem to recognize me more and are very social with me everywhere I go,” said Veilleux.

The small business owner has taken an eight-week leave from his business to campaign.

Veilleux is campaigning strongly on the current Liberal government record. He said he believes Liberal programs and investments have had a positive impact on the region’s families, infrastructure, and small businesses. 

His priorities, if elected, will be marketing the region to attract economic immigrants in order to address Beauce’s shortage of workers and logging for the people affected by the Chaudiere River floods last spring.  

Conservative Sophie Veilleux in Papineau is in the same boat as Veilleux. But out of all the candidates running in the current election, Sophie Veilleux might have the steepest hill to climb running against Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

An involved member of  the community in Papineau, Veilleux said her main goal in politics is to represent the people and bring change to an impoverished community

“The schools are overcrowded, there are way too many kids in a class, there’s a lack of social housing in Papineau, we need to give purchasing power to small businesses, we need to address the poverty in Papineau,” said Veilleux. “These are all issues close to my heart and that’s why I decided to run.”   

Veilleux said she thinks her Liberal opponents’ lack of care for his riding may lead to her victory on election night.

“Justin Trudeau has been the MP here for 10 years now and I’m very involved in the community and the consensus on the streets is that nothing’s changed, absolutely nothing,” she said. 

According to Veilleux, the best ways to solve the poverty issues in Papineau is to give tax breaks on things like sports and school, while also getting rid of the federal tax on electricity.

“I believe this will put more money in peoples’ pockets.”

Despite low poll numbers, Veilleux is confident in her chances and refuses to even speak of defeat.

“I don’t want to speak of losing, I’m gonna be elected MP for Papineau on Oct. 21.” 

The last incumbent prime minister to lose their seat in an election was Conservative Kim Campbell in 1993.

In Ottawa-Centre, the Green Party’s Angela Keller-Herzog is hoping to pull her own upset, running for the Green Party against the incumbent Liberal Minister of the Environment Catherine McKenna.

The Green candidate is running on local environmental issues she said the Minister of the Environment has failed to address.

“I think that making sure we don’t get radioactive waste in the Ottawa River is an issue, which is of long term public interest, that Catherine McKenna doesn’t seem to even answer letters about anymore,” said Keller Herzog. “We need to invest more in urban transit to address the transportation sector and the shift to electric buses and electric cars.”

The mother of two said she also believes the future resides in incentives, born from the collaboration between the municipal and federal levels of government, that can lower the cost of heating and cooling businesses and houses while getting rid of fossil fuels and switching to green energies.

Keller-Herzog is an eco-business owner and has had to put her business in the hand’s of people she trusts during the campaign

“Sometimes people imagine that to run in politics, you need to have a big bag of self-financing money, but it’s not necessarily the case. What I found challenging was to find the time,” she said. “I actually hired staff to help me run my eco-friendly bed and breakfast and that, in turn, has allowed me to have more time.”

Even if she doesn’t win on Oct. 21, Keller-Herzog said she’s learned a lot during her campaign.

“I haven’t expected the challenges of having a huge volunteer team and all the coordination,”  she said. “On the other hand, it’s a great deal of fun to be working with like-minded people but it’s a challenge, that’s for sure. We’ve been going at this since April and now (the election is) a few days away, but it’s not a sprint, it’s a marathon.”  

Keller-Herzog’s chances of victory are very slim but as someone who used to collect local polling data in the 2015 election, she said she doesn’t believe in national and commissioned polls.

“I wish I had an extra $5,000 so I could commission my own poll,” she said.

She also believes there is a gaping lack of local data.

Crossing over to the Quebec side of the Ottawa River, Jonathan Carreiro-Benoit is hoping the resurgence of the Bloc Quebecois will help him defeat Liberal incumbent Will Amos in Pontiac.

The 23-year-old University of Laval student is in his second electoral campaign after unsuccessfully running in Gatineau for the Parti Quebecois in Quebec’s 2018 provincial elections.

Running in a riding with a large anglophone minority that’s never elected a Bloc Quebecois MP in its history, Carreiro-Benoit is concentrating a lot of his efforts on the rural portion of the district.

“We only bought about 50 signs … that we put up in the urban areas of the riding, but my team and I have concentrated most of our efforts on the rural areas of the riding,” said Carreiro-Benoit.

If elected, Carreiro-Benoit said he will prioritize securing funding for hybrid public transport systems between rural and urban areas in Pontiac. He also wants to establish education and training programs for jobs in the riding’s rural areas to address the regional shortage of workers.

Moving one electoral district over, Eric Chaurette is running for the NDP in Gatineau, a riding where only one New Democrat has ever been elected (back in 2011).

Chaurette works for a social justice organization and never had any thought of going into politics until he had a personal change of heart. 

“It was during the spring floods of 2019, I was filling sandbags at a local arena and that’s where it sort of clicked in my head,” he said. “I’m very upset that we’re dealing with this climate crisis and then I was looking at my daughter and was trying to imagine the kind of future she’ll have, and then I got very upset with what the government is doing.” 

“I’ve always been an activist, now I want to be an activist in Parliament,” he said.

The NDP candidate has been doing a lot of door-knocking to listen to the realities of the residents in his riding. He said one of the things he’s learned is how much people are still struggling financially with the Phoenix pay system and their anxieties around floods and climate change inaction.

“People are very concerned about climate change, the floods, and about the future for their kids,” Chaurette said. “I did a debate at the Cégep de l’Outaouais and climate change was their key issue. As an environmentalist, I totally understand.”

Chaurette is opposed to the idea of a new bridge crossing the Ottawa River proposed by his Liberal opponent, Steve McKinnon, but would be open to supporting a regional public transit project that could connect both cities.

“I feel like there’s a disconnect between what the community needs and what Mr. McKinnon wants to do, and I feel like that’s very problematic,” said Chaurette. “I’ve always worked in the community as a community organizer, so it’s very natural for me to listen to people and then be guided to fight for what the community wants.”

Even if he doesn’t win on election night, Chaurette says he learned a lot from his own community.

“I’ve learned so much about the people who live around me in Gatineau, their dreams, their concerns, their priorities, I’ve made a lot of friendships and acquaintances and I’ve been overwhelmed by the generosity and solidarity, it’s been amazing,” said Chaurette.

The federal election takes place on Oct. 21. To register to vote in your electoral district, click here.