Campaigning for the May 2 federal election began in earnest this week, with campaign stops in the area for all three major party leaders.
Politics junkies and party insiders alike will be focusing their attention on the ridings of Kitchener-Waterloo and Kitchener Centre in the coming weeks. Both ridings were won by Conservative candidates by a margin of less than one per cent last election and they have been declared bell-weather ridings this time around.
In contrast, Dr. Barry Kay, professor of political science at Wilfrid Laurier University, said the riding of Kitchener-Conestoga will most likely remain a Conservative stronghold.
“The Kitchener-Conestoga riding was won last time by the Conservatives by close to 25 points and it’s hard to imagine that seat being in jeopardy or even being particularly interesting,” he said.
Kay said previous election results as well as community-wide name recognition of incumbent Harold Albrecht, should make the race an easy win for him, even against what Kay called a strong liberal candidate in Dr. Bob Rosehart.
“Dr. Rosehart is certainly a high profile candidate,” said Kay. “I’m sure the Liberals were happy to pick up someone as prominent as that.”
Kay said he only expects the Liberals to succeed in Kitchener-Conestoga if there is a dramatic turnaround in Ontario and the party sweeps the province.
Kitchener Centre and Kitchener-Waterloo, however, are too close to call this early in the election. Both seats were Liberal strongholds for more than a decade when they were lost to Conservatives in the last election, the latter by just 17 votes.
“They are extremely close,” Kay said. “Those ridings are very much (indicators) of what’s going on in the province generally.”
Ontario-wide the Conservatives won the last election by five points. In a poll released this week by WLU, the Cconservatives were projected to increase that number to seven points.
“What it looks right now is that the numbers are going to be very comparable to what they were last time,” Kay said.
He predicts factors such as left-wing vote splitting, and low voter turn-out among younger voters, may give the country another Conservative minority government. For now, all eyes are on Kitchener Centre and Kitchener-Waterloo, where the only poll that counts will be the one on voting day.