| Oct 09, 2008

Oct 9/08 - LFL&A Election Primer

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Feature Article - October 9, 2008 Election primer – Lanark, Frontenac, Lennox and AddingtonBy Jeff Green

Frontenac County might be in the geographic centre of the Lanark, Frontenac, Lennox and Addington riding, but most of the political attention in the riding seems to be split between the populous areas of eastern Lanark County (Perth, Smiths Falls, and Carleton Place) and the southwestern corner of the riding (Loyalist Township and the township of Greater Napanee).

The Conservative and Liberal parties, who received 75% of the vote between them in 2006, and 80% the first time the riding was contested in 2004, each have candidates that are closely identified with one of these population centres.

Incumbent MP Scott Reid, who lives in Carleton Place, won two elections in the old Lanark-Carleton riding under the banner of the Canadian Alliance Party, before winning twice as a Conservative in the new riding. As an opposition MP, he forged his local credibility as an activist for local causes in Lanark County, ranging from his Buy Local Beef Campaign, the purchase of defibrillators with part of his MP salary, and by promoting the services of his constituency office.

Liberal David Remington is a native son candidate from Napanee, where he has municipal experience from serving as councillor and mayor. He was also the parliamentary assistant to Larry McCormick, who was the Liberal MP for the old Hastings, Frontenac, Lennox and Addington riding.

Neither candidate has strong personal connections to Frontenac County. South Frontenac Township is the most populated township within the riding with a permanent resident population of over 16,000 (followed closely by Greater Napanee at 15,100 and Loyalist at 14,700) but it has a population that is spread relatively evenly over a large area and does not have a history of supporting a single candidate or party.

As a whole, the Lanark County portion of the riding has a population in excess of 41,000, Frontenac County has 22,000, and Lennox and Addington about 39,000. While these are not the number of eligible voters, there is a correlation.

The secret to Scott Reid's electoral success in the previous two elections (he received 51% of the vote in 2006, and 48.7% in 2004) has been his ability to hold his own throughout Frontenac and Lennox and Addington, and win 60 to 70 percent of the vote in Lanark County.

When pollsters and election prediction organisations look at different ridings, they tend to look at the results from previous elections and at changes in support for political parties on a regional basis. While there is no polling in Lanark, Frontenac, Lennox and Addington, the Conservative Party has been at least as popular in Ontario as a whole as it was in 2006, but in recent days its popularity has slid substantially in the Province of Ontario.

Based on Scott Reid's very comfortable margin of victory in 2006, a 15,000 vote margin over Liberal candidate Geoff Turner, has led two election prediction organisations - Democraticspace.com and Electionprediction.org to place LFL&A in the column of safe Conservative ridings even before the election was called.

The only two flies in the ointment for Scott Reid are the volatility of the electorate in recent days and the reslts in last years’ provincial election.

Conservative support in Ontario has slipped from a high of 43% in some polls just a week ago to 31% in the last few days – the Liberals have increased from 30% to 40% over the same time period.

Liberal candidate David Remington is also buoyed by the fact that in the identical provincial riding Conservative Randy Hillier won the election by less than 1,000 votes just one year ago.

Provincial elections and federal elections are not the same, however, but under unpopular leader John Tory the Ontario Conservative party received 32% of the vote to the Liberals’ 42% in the provincial election, which is almost identical to the way the numbers stand federally in Ontario one week before voting day.

In order for Remington to win he will have to take a lot of votes from the NDP and the Green parties as well as the Conservatives.

It is safe to say that if Dave Remington were to defeat Scott Reid in this riding, the Conservatives would be in deep trouble in the rest of Ontario, where they have never been as popular as they are in LFLA. It would certainly mean that the Liberals and not the Conservatives would be forming the next government.

No one, not even diehard Liberals, believed this was even a possibility just one week ago, but now it seems that all bets are off.

It now promises to be a very interesting race to the wire all across the country.

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