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Waterloo Region ridings up for grabs on election day: expert

Kitchener Centre could be the most intriguing of all the ridings in Waterloo Region, with three separate leader visits in the last week
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It is election day, and political experts will have eyes on Waterloo Region.

Very little is certain when it comes to the five seats, but one thing is guaranteed: it will not be a clean sweep for the Liberals like the region saw in 2019.

Kitchener Centre's incumbent Raj Saini ended his campaign due to allegations of sexual misconduct, allegations he has fully denied, and even though he is on the ballot --- he dropped from the race after the Elections Canada deadline, so residents can still vote for him --- Saini would sit as an Independent if re-elected.

Rival parties can smell blood in the water in that riding, with the leaders of the NDP, the Green Party and the Conservatives all paying a visit within the last week.

Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau was also stumping for votes in Kitchener South-Hespeler on Friday, where eight candidates are vying for an open seat, after incumbent Marwan Tabbara chose not to run again.

Tabbara is still in the midst of a criminal court case, facing charges stemming from his arrest in April 2020.

Those are just two of the ridings, but all five seem to be up for grabs.

"All seats out of 338 are in a sense important, but these are seats that could change hands," said Peter Woolstencroft, political sciences professor emeritus at the University of Waterloo.

"It's not so long ago that all the seats in Waterloo Region were blue or Conservative.  Now, they're all red Liberal.  The NDP has elected people at the provincial level in this region, so each of the parties I can see themselves as competitive in this area.  There's degrees of safety, but you can't really say that there are a lot of safe seats in Waterloo Region as such."

That includes the Waterloo riding, where Liberal Bardish Chagger is looking to fend off four challengers.

"I think every seat could be in jeopardy, and at one time it was the safest Liberal seat outside of Quebec," Woolstencroft said.

He said there are a lot of new people living in the suburbs in Waterloo, so it could switch, as could Kitchener-Conestoga, which turned blue to red in 2019 in a close race.

Woolstencroft expects the rural ridings will stay the same, but there's a big battle brewing in the region, and it could be a difference-maker when all the votes are cast.

"The Conservatives, if they want to make gains toward a minority or even a majority, have to win seats in Waterloo Region," he said, "The Conservatives have to win two or three of those (local ridings) to have a shot at minority or majority."

Woolstencroft believes with such a mixture between urban and rural areas locally, there are populations that aren't tied down to old patterns and there are questions on how they'll vote.

He also pointed to other Ontario ridings as key to the race, from the Niagara region, London and Ottawa.

"There's some opportunities for all the parties to win," Woolstencroft said, "And for the Conservatives in particular, they need to win seats here."

 

CANDIDATES IN WATERLOO REGION

WATERLOO

  • Liberal: Bardish Chagger (incumbent)
  • Conservative: Meghan Shannon 
  • NDP: Jonathan Cassels
  • Green: Karla Villagomez Fajardo
  • People's Party of Canada: Patrick Doucette

KITCHENER CENTRE

  • Liberal*: Raj Saini (incumbent)
  • Conservative: Mary Henein Thorn
  • NDP: Beisan Zubi
  • Green: Mike Morrice
  • People's Party of Canada: Diane Boskovic 
  • Animal Protection Party: Ellen Papenburg

* Saini is registered as a Liberal on the ballot, but will not be part of the Liberal caucus if re-elected

KITCHENER-CONESTOGA

  • Liberal: Tim Louis (incumbent)
  • Conservative: Carlene Hawley
  • NDP: Narine Dat Sookram
  • Green: Owen Bradley 
  • People's Party of Canada: Kevin Dupuis

KITCHENER SOUTH-HESPELER 

  • Liberal: Valerie Bradford
  • Conservative: Tyler Calver
  • NDP: Suresh Arangath
  • Green: Gabe Rose 
  • People's Party of Canada: Melissa Baumgaertner
  • Marxist-Leninist Party of Canada: Elaine Baetz
  • Parti Rhinocéros Party: Stephen Davis
  • Independent: C.A. Morrison

CAMBRIDGE

  • Liberal: Bryan May (incumbent) 
  • Conservative: Connie Cody
  • NDP: Lorne Bruce 
  • Green: Michele Braniff
  • People's Party of Canada: Maggie Segounis
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