NDP focusing on tight races like Ottawa-Vanier
The NDP has its sights set on expansion as part of a national strategy to target ridings that could help the party form a government, and in Ottawa that riding is Ottawa-Vanier.
Voters in Ottawa have only supported the New Democrats in a single riding — Ottawa-Centre — where Ed Broadbent first won the seat in 2004, and NDP candidate Paul Dewar has won in every election since.
Ottawa-Vanier, sometimes called “the other downtown riding,” lies east of Colonel By Drive and includes the Rideau Centre, the University of Ottawa, and extends all the way to Vanier and old Gloucester.
NDP fortunes rose in 2011
Ottawa-Vanier has been a longtime Liberal stronghold where the incumbent, Mauril Belanger, has been the member of Parliament for 22 years, traditionally taking 50 per cent of the vote but his margins have been slipping.
By 2011, the Liberal support dropped to 38 per cent, while the NDP rose from third place to second with 29 per cent of the vote.
“It is an interesting riding for (the NDP) to target because they did do surprisingly well in 2011,” said CBC poll analyst Eric Grenier.
Grenier, the founder of threehundredeight.com, added that “a lot of New Democrats might be thinking that if they had more resources it could have been a riding that could have swung over to them.”
New NDP strategy for 2015
Grenier said it’s no surprise to see a new and improved strategy for the 2015 campaign, starting with a star candidate, Emilie Taman, the daughter of retired Supreme Court Justice Louise Arbour.
Taman, a former government prosecutor, garnered media attention when she was forced to quit her job to run for office, raising her profile among the large number of public servants in the riding.
NDP volunteers across the region, including Paul Dewar’s riding in neighbouring Ottawa-Centre, have been sent in to help Taman campaign in Ottawa-Vanier.
“I have someone with me who came in from Toronto because she wants to volunteer for the NDP and that’s hugely exciting,” said Taman.
“These people bring an excitement and enthusiasm that we can actually do it this time.”
Liberals still favoured to win
Grenier’s poll projections on threehundredeight.com still gives the Liberals a clear edge in Ottawa-Vanier, despite a strong local race.
“We’re seeing a close three-way race nationwide and where the New Democrats are a bit weaker in Ontario it would be a bigger challenge for them to pick up a riding like Ottawa-Vanier,” said Grenier.
David Piccini, the Conservative candidate who works for the Minister of International Trade, is hoping to take advantage of that three-way race and increase his party’s fortunes this time.
The Conservatives have consistently won about 30 per cent of the vote in Ottawa-Vanier over the last decade, including 27 per cent in 2011 in a close horse-race for second place with the NDP.
“We’ve knocked on doors across Ottawa-Vanier, in fact, we’re knocking on many of them twice, even three times,” said Piccini.
Piccini said when his supporters talk about change, they’re talking about retiring the incumbent after 22 years.
“People are concerned, they haven’t had the kind of active engagement they expect from their MP.”
The Green Party has traditionally picked up between 6 and 8 per cent of the vote in Ottawa -Vanier.
Nira Dookeran is the Green Party candidate for 2015.