Election race begins in changed riding

By Bonnie Van Toen

Ottawa Centre MPP Richard Patten has launched himself into the next provincial election race.
Patten expects to be acclaimed because he is the only Liberal to have expressed an interest in the nomination.

Other nominees need to give fair warning of their intention to compete so that “a sitting member doesn’t get bushwhacked,” says Patten.

The nomination meeting will likely be held early in the new year.

The election will take on a different tone than past elections because of changes in the riding boundaries. The riding has expanded to the west and south in a plan to bring the federal and provincial ridings into alignment.

The boundaries were changed after the 1995 provincial election.

Traditionally, the race in Ottawa Centre has been between the Liberals and the NDP.

Patten says the boundary changes could help the Liberal cause, and “dilute [the] NDP.”

Both the NDP and the Liberals have been looking at old election results, polls and talking with people to get a feel for the changes in the riding.

“We’ve seen Ottawa Centre way back was dominated by the Glebe and Centretown,” says Anne Schroder, president of the Ottawa Centre Provincial Liberal Riding Association.

“We’re going to find ourselves in a really diverse riding. Ottawa Centre has always been ethnically diverse but I think now we’re going to see economic diversity,” she says.

An NDP strategist agrees that the riding is losing its downtown feel.

“Ottawa Centre is going to have a bit more of a suburban flavour with the new boundaries,” says Tim Stutt, co-president of the New Democratic Party riding association.

“All the riding associations will have to deal with new voters that we don’t know or we don’t know as well.”

The NDP has begun its search for nominees. Jamey Heath, who campaigned in the riding in the federal election, and Kanata regional councillor Alex Munter were both rumoured to have been on the list of picks, but both say they won’t be running.

The only confirmed New Democratic Party candidate so far is John Crump, a Glebe resident and Carleton University graduate with a background in journalism and political work.

An election was expected as early as this fall, but Stutt says, “with each passing day it becomes less likely that it will be a fall election.”

Both Stutt and Schroder expect health care and education to dominate the campaign but say the anti-Harris feeling could be the over-riding factor.

“People see the Harris government as robbing Peter to pay Paul as it were,” says the NDP’s Stutt.