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:: ElectionWatch 2006

ElectionWatch: Northern Ontario holds the key to Liberal majorities  

[PoliticsWatch posted 3:00 p.m. November 21, 2005]

Agriculture Minister Andy Mitchell hopes to hold on to a seat that has traditionally voted Conservative. 

As the 2006 federal election draws closer, PoliticsWatch will examine the races in all 308 ridings across the country. In the fourth instalment, PoliticsWatch looks at the 10 ridings in Northern Ontario.     

Northern Ontario

Seats: 10

2004 Seat Results: Lib 8 (-2); NDP 2 (+2); Con 0

The NDP finally made a breakthrough in Northern Ontario in 2004, ending a string of three federal elections where the Liberals swept all 10 ridings. Nonetheless, the Liberals are strong in this part of the country. In Algoma - Manitoulin - Kapuskasing, a riding once held by Lester B. Pearson, the Liberals have won every election since 1935. In Sudbury, the Liberals have won every federal election dating back to 1947. The NDP won two seats in the last election, but they were both by less than 1,000-vote margins. With a good campaign, the NDP could pick up two more seats. The Conservatives' best hope is to regain the riding of Parry Sound - Muskoka riding, which was a Conservative stronghold up until 1993. Former Tory leadership candidate Tony Clement will take on Agriculture Minister Andy Mitchell in that riding. 


Solid Seats: 4

Dream Seat Scenario: Lib 10 (+2); NDP 0 (-2); Con 0

Young candidates take back the Liberal stronghold of Timmins - James Bay from the NDP and the swing riding of Sault Ste. Marie from the NDP. 

Nightmare Seat Scenario: Lib 4 (-4); NDP 4 (+2); Con 2 (+2)

Charlie Angus and Tony Martin hold on to their NDP ridings, the NDP picks up Nickel Belt and Kenora, two ridings they won in the 1980s. Tony Clement beats Andy Mitchell in Parry Sound - Muskoka and the Tories pull off an upset in Nipissing - Timiskaming. 


Solid Seats: 0

Dream Seat Scenario: Lib 6 (-2); NDP 4 (+2); Con 0

The NDP holds Timmins - James Bay and Sault Ste. Marie, picks up Nickel Belt and Kenora. 

Nightmare Seat Scenario: Lib 10 (+2); NDP 0 (-2); Con 0

See Liberal dream scenario.


Solid Seats: 0

Dream Seat Scenario: Lib 6 (-2); NDP 2; Con 2 (+2)

Tony Clement defeats Andy Mitchell in the traditionally conservative riding of Parry Sound - Muskoka and the Conservatives win in Nipissing - Timiskaming as they did in 1984. 

Nightmare Seat Scenario: Lib 10 (+2); NDP 0 (-2); Con 0

Pretty much the way things are now, except the Liberals gain seats from 2004. 

The Big Picture: The entire region is a bellwether for whether or not the Liberals will win a majority. When the Liberals come close to sweeping here, they win majority governments. The last four majority governments the Liberals have won came with winning 9 of the 10 seats here. The only riding not applicable is Parry Sound - Muskoka, which had been a Conservative fortress up until 1993. When the Liberals were reduced to 40 seats in the 1984 election, they lost seven of the 10 ridings, with Sudbury, Algoma and Timmins - James Bay the only ridings surviving. 

Ridings to Watch (6)

NDP MP Charlie Angus won his riding in 2004 by 613 votes. 

Timmins -- James Bay

The Liberals had won this riding in 22-consecutice elections dating back to 1926. Then along came NDP MP Charlie Angus, who came 613 votes ahead of Liberal candidate Raymond Chenier on election night 2004. Since that upset victory, Angus has been the most prominent of the new crop of NDP MPs largely due to his efforts to raise attention about the water problems facing natives on the Kasechewan reserve. The Liberals are sending prominent Timmins lawyer and former advisor to Diane Marleau Robert Riopelle in to win back the riding from Angus. 

Analysis: Liberal stronghold held by the NDP. 

Sault Ste. Marie

NDP MP Tony Martin won this riding by just 752 votes over Liberal incumbent Carmen Provenzano. It was a major turnaround by the NDP after finishing 9,000 votes behind the Liberals in the 2000 election. Since 1968, both the Liberals and the NDP have won this riding five times. In 1984, the Conservative candidate Jim Kelleher won the riding as part of Brian Mulroney's record majority. Provenzano died of a sudden heart attack in July, but the Liberals will try to keep the Provenzano legacy alive in the riding. Christian Provenzano, a lawyer and the nephew of the late MP, is the Liberal candidate in 2006. 

Analysis: Swing riding the Liberals could win back.

Nickel Belt

Since 1965, the riding of Nickel Belt has switched hands between the Liberals and the NDP six times. Currently, Liberal MP Ray Bonin has won the riding in every election since 1993 when the Liberals swept Ontario and he defeated long-time NDP MP John Rodriguez. But in 2004, Bonin won his seat by his slimmest margin yet, 3,200 votes ahead of NDP candidate Claude Gravelle. The NDP is running Gravelle again in the upcoming federal election. Is Nickel Belt about to switch hands for the seventh time in the past 40 years? The Conservatives have never won this riding created in 1953. Their strongest showing in recent years came during the 1984 Mulroney record majority when a Conservative finished second to the NDP's Rodriguez.

Analysis: Swing seat that could swing back to the NDP 

Parry Sound - Muskoka

Former Ontario health minister Tony Clement is taking another shot at federal politics in a riding that has a history of voting conservative. 

The Conservatives won 12 straight elections in the riding from 1947 to 1988. But since 1993, Agriculture Minister Andy Mitchell has held the riding. The 2004 election was Mitchell's narrowest victory when he defeated Conservative Keith Montgomery by 3,300 votes. The Conservatives are running former Ontario cabinet minister Tony Clement in a riding they need to win back. 

Analysis: Traditional Conservative seat the Conservatives need to take back from the Liberals.


The Liberals have won 23 of the last 24 elections in this riding dating back to 1925 before the King-Byng affair. The only time the NDP won the riding was in 1984 when the Turner-led Liberals were turfed in the Mulroney landslide. Rookie Liberal MP Roger Valley narrowly won the riding with 986 votes over NDP candidate Susan Barclay. Barclay is the nominee for the third-consecutive election. This the same riding held at the provincial level by Ontario NDP leader Howard Hampton.

Analysis: Liberal stronghold that the NDP could steal.


The Liberals have won 24 of the last 25 elections in the riding dating back to 1921. Like Kenora, the only time another party made a breakthrough was in 1984 when Brian Mulroney had his record majority landslide win. Conservative Moe Mantha defeated Defence Minister Jean-Jacques Blais in 1984. In the last election, rookie Liberal MP Anthony Rota defeated Tory candidate Al MacDonald by 2,250 votes, the closest race in the riding since 1988. The Conservatives are running Peter Chirico, North Bay's deputy mayor. The NDP hasn't done better than third in this riding since 1945. 

Analysis: Liberal stronghold the Conservatives could steal.

Solid Seats (4)

Algoma - Manitoulin - Kapuskasing

The Liberals have won 21 consecutive elections in this riding since 1935. Liberal MP Brent St. Denis is one of four men who have represented the riding over the last 70 years. This includes former prime minister Lester B. Pearson, who won seven elections from 1949 to 1965. Maurice Foster, who won seven elections from 1968 to 1988, followed him. The NDP came close to winning this riding in 2004, when NDP candidate Carol Hughes came within 3,000 votes of defeating St. Denis. It was the first time the NDP finished second in the riding since 1988. The NDP has yet to nominate a candidate in this riding they nearly stole in the last election. 

Analysis: Traditional Liberal riding with growing NDP support. 


The Liberals have won 18 consecutive elections in Sudbury dating back to 1947. The only blip on the radar came during The Summer of Love when the NDP won the riding in a byelection in 1967. Liberal MP Diane Marleau looks to win her sixth-consecutive election, matching the six won in the riding by Liberal MP Rodger Mitchell, who won the riding from 1953 to 1965. Mitchell died as an MP in 1967. Marleau won the riding in 2004 by 6,200 votes over the second-place NDP candidate, her smallest margin of victory since 1988. 

Analysis: Liberals look to win 19th election in a row here

Thunder Bay - Rainy River

The Liberals have won 19 of the last 21 elections in this riding dating back to 1935. The only exception came during 1984 and 1988 when the NDP's Ian Angus won the riding. Rookie Liberal MP Ken Boshcoff won the riding over the NDP by 3,500 votes in 2004. 

Analysis: Liberal stronghold

Thunder Bay - Superior North

This riding has sent some of the most prominent parliamentarians to Ottawa over the past 70 years. Long-time Liberal cabinet minister C.D. Howe won this riding five times from 1935 to 1953, to be replaced by the CCF's Douglas Fisher, who won this riding for four elections in the 50s and 60s. The current MP, Liberal Joe Comuzzi, is looking to surpass these two men in the upcoming election when he seeks his sixth-consecutive election victory in 2006. The Liberals are dominant in this riding, having won in 11 of the last 12 federal elections dating back to 1965. NDP MP Ernie Epp won the riding in 1984. The Conservatives have never won this riding. Comuzzi won the riding by 5,000 votes over the NDP candidate Bruce Hyer in the last election. Hyer is taking another shot at it. 

Analysis: Solid Liberal riding

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