Number-crunching the Pontiac vote

My high-risk election prognostication continues. In this entry, I’m going to take a look at the results for the 2006 election in my riding, Pontiac (see previous entry), and in particular in my particular corner of the riding, Pontiac County (i.e., the Regional County Municipality of Pontiac, or Pontiac MRC),

The Pontiac riding went Conservative in 2006 by a 2,371-vote margin, or 4.97 percentage points. But were it not for the Pontiac MRC, it would have gone to the Bloc Québécois by about 700 votes. The Bloc’s Christine Émond Lapointe led in L’Ange-Gardien, Buckingham, Cantley, Masson-Angers and Val-des-Monts by varying degrees; she even narrowly won Maniwaki, the home town of David Smith, the incumbent Liberal M.P. The Conservative candidate, Lawrence Cannon, won the Municipality of Pontiac (which, confusingly, is outside the Pontiac MRC), and Chelsea in addition to the Pontiac MRC, but it was the Pontiac MRC that put him over the top.

CandidatePontiac MRCEntire Riding
Brault, Céline (NDP)512 (8.08%)4,759 (9.97%)
Cannon, Lawrence (Conservative)3,490 (55.06%)16,069 (33.68%)
Émond Lapointe, Christine (BQ)424 (6.69%)13,698 (28.71%)
Garahan, Moe (Green)90 (1.42%)1,512 (3.16%)
Legros, Benoît (Marxist-Leninist)17 (0.27%)107 (0.22%)
Smith, David (Liberal)1,785 (28.16%)11,561 (24.23%)
Total vote (voter turnout %)6,339 (54.00%)48,033 (61.76%)

In the 2004 election, which David Smith won, the Liberal and Conservative candidates were stronger in different parts of the Pontiac MRC. Smith was dominant in the upper Pontiac and Fort Coulonge; the Conservative, Judy Grant, did very well in and around Shawville, with the narrow belt of municipalities between Fort Coulonge and Shawville — a line following Route 301 I like to refer to as the “Litchfield corridor” — falling somewhere in the middle.

The 2006 election saw the same tendencies, in that Smith did better in the upper Pontiac and Fort Coulonge and Cannon did better around Shawville — even so, Cannon annihilated Smith virtually everywhere, winning the upper Pontiac municipalities 47 to 39, Fort Coulonge and Mansfield 42 to 34, and the Litchfield corridor 56 to 27. In and around Shawville, I think his margin was actually worse than Judy Grant’s, but he still clobbered Smith 68 to 19. (And if you think Smith’s results look bad, consider that he did better here than in the rest of the riding.)

As usual, the Bloc was hardly anywhere to be seen in this most federalist of Quebec counties. Émond Lapointe finished behind the NDP’s Céline Brault in the county as a whole. However, while NDP support was small and evenly distributed, Bloc support was more concentrated: 13 percent in and around Fort Coulonge, nearly 19 percent in Île-du-Grand-Calumet, and 20 percent in Rapides-des-Joachims. These are historically the pockets in which the Bloc’s limited support is found in my area; not coincidentally, they’re also the most francophone areas of the county.

What does this mean for the 2008 election?

Cannon has the advantage of incumbency (and a cabinet post), but he doesn’t have much room left to grow in this part of the riding. But he has abundant opportunities for growth at the Bloc’s expense elsewhere. If the Bloc performs poorly this time around, I expect that Cannon will have a relatively easy time retaining his seat.

Support for the Liberal candidate, Cindy Duncan McMillan (see previous entry), is hard to gauge; absent a strong Conservative candidate, she’d have strong appeal out here, as a farmer whose platform is very much focused on local and rural issues. But the sort of people her platform would appeal to are exactly the sort of people who overwhelmingly voted for Cannon the last time. And I can’t see her playing well in the Gatineau suburbs. I expect her to do better in the Pontiac MRC than David Smith did, but not necessarily by much; I don’t know how she’ll do elsewhere. I don’t expect her to win, honestly.

But who I expect to win is not necessarily who I end up voting for. And it’s worth pointing out that the margins were tight enough last time that any significant movement in any direction by any party could very well change the outcome this time.