The federal election question in Quinte these days is straightforward: if the NDP Orange Wave flows over the country, will it carry the new Bay of Quinte riding with it?
Probably not. First, the Bay of Quinte riding, or at least its various, have never elected an NDP candidate. Not even close.
The same holds provincially, with the lone exception being Paul Johnson’s 1990 win in what was then Prince Edward-Lennox. Even then it required a nearly perfect three-way split.
And history isn’t the only challenge the NDP have to overcome.
While polls show the NDP leading across the country, that support isn’t universal. For instance, the Liberals still lead the polls in Atlantic Canada while the Conservatives lead in the Prairies and Manitoba.
While NDP momentum in Ontario is growing – Andrea Horwath’s provincial party has a double digit increase in support since the NDP win in Alberta – the Tories still hold a slight edge.
So it seems logical that in what has been traditionally a largely blue mark on the map would be among the areas still supporting the Conservatives.
But that doesn’t make it a walk for Jodie Jenkins and Big Blue either. In fact the one thing the NDP rise has done has made this riding even less predictable largely because what had been a two-way race now has a third member who has to be taken seriously.
So, pros and cons for the three major party candidates in the new political landscape.
Jodie Jenkins: Jenkins strategy through the early parts of the campaign had been straightforward: engage the base, make sure people tie him to the party and then ride the national effort to ensure Justin Trudeau didn’t become Prime Minister.
The challenge Jenkins has is with the federal party shifting its attention to Thomas Mulcair the onus falls on the former city councillor to distinguish himself from his former mayor, Neil Ellis.
The advantage Jenkins has is the traditional blue base of most of the new riding, including CFB Trenton. If the base votes Tory, that could counteract relatively strong Liberal support in Belleville and any shift to the NDP throughout the riding.
Neil Ellis: The rise of the NDP hurts Ellis at least as hard if not harder than Jenkins.
For Ellis to overcome the history of this area and turn it red, he needed Trudeaumania to sweep through the area and either sweep him to victory or at least turn this into a contest between local candidates rather than parties.
On a level playing field, without traditional political affiliations, Ellis has a much better chance, particularly in some of the extremely blue regions of the riding.
While Mulcair’s rise looks to have eliminated Trudeaumania as a factor, it could, if it continued to rise, have the same affect in terms of making this a race about local candidates rather than party ties, in which case Ellis arguably has the edge in both name recognition and political resume.
Terry Cassidy: Late to the race from a party that has barely ever moved the dial in this area, Cassidy will have to get as much bang for the buck out of Mulcair’s rise as possible while at the same time doing everything he can to ensure people remember he is running.
While he remains a long shot, Cassidy has a couple cards to play. First, as the only non-Belleville candidate of the big three, he will likely get some anti-Belleville bounce, as well as some support in Quinte West where he had a distinguished career as a councillor.
The other card that might fall for Cassidy is if neither Ellis nor Jenkins can pull away from the pack. With an even split between red and blue, and if the NDP continues climbing the polls nationally, Cassidy could still turn Bay of Quinte orange.
Anything is possible at this point. The one thing for sure is this is a much different election than it was three months ago and could still turn several different ways in the next three months.
Buckle your seat belts. It could be a wild ride.
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