KW receiving a lot of attention
On Apr. 29 Liberal Party leader Michael Ignatieff made one of his last speeches of the campaign at Kitchener’s Bingemans Conference Centre. This was Iganatieff’s second visit to Waterloo Region this campaign, however the Liberals weren’t alone in paying the Kitchener-Waterloo and Kitchener-Centre ridings a little extra attention.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper also made two appearances in the region, while New Democratic Party (NDP) leader Jack Layton and the Green Party’s Elizabeth May each made campaign stops in KW. According to Laurier political science professor Barry Kay, this was anything but an accident.
“The Kitchener-Waterloo and Kitchener-Centre seats are highly competitive and the reason they’re getting so much attention is because the races were so close in 2008,” he said. “Kitchener-Waterloo was the most competitive race in the country and Kitchener-Centre wasn’t far behind.”
In the 2008 federal election, long-time Liberal incumbent for Kitchener-Waterloo, Andrew Telegdi, was defeated by Conservative Peter Braid by just 17 votes making it, as Kay mentioned, the closest race in Canada. In Kitchener-Centre, another Liberal incumbent, Karen Redman, was defeated by another Conservative, Stephen Woodworth by a margin of just 339 votes.
This close margin of victory for the Conservatives has not only got the attention of the federal party leaders, particularly Harper and Ignatieff, but also the national media. Both the National Post and Toronto Star have noted Kitchener-Waterloo and Kitchener-Centre among their ridings to watch, with the National Post running a full story on the ridings.
Many have credited Liberal apathy for the surprising 2008 losses in the two ridings, however according to Kay it can also be chalked up to a broader trend.
“The tide moved towards the Conservatives, it was happening in all sorts of places,” he said. “What was happening in Waterloo was in no way unique, it was surprising, but across Ontario, the Conservatives did better than most anticipated…. Most of Ontario was simply going Conservative.”
This trend and its effect on the Kitchener-Waterloo and Kitchener-Centre ridings indicated the role that a region like Waterloo plays in the grander electoral scheme.
“In general, Kitchener is a very good bellwether for all of Ontario,” said Kay. “It’s not as urban as the Toronto area and it’s not as rural as other areas. Over time we’ve found that Kitchener-Centre especially has been a riding that’s gone with the general trend.”