Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Lawrence Cannon, M.P.?

In this evening's sign that a Canadian election is upon us, Stephen Harper has announced the recruitment of a "star" candidate to run in the Quebec riding of Pontiac: Lawrence Cannon.

The Tories clearly need some token representation in Quebec in the near future, in order to establish some early legitimacy in the wake of a minority victory and also lay the groundwork for the party in the province. In order to entertain any hope of winning now, however, they'll need to match candidates with winnable opportunities in short order. Lawrence Cannon's nomination in Pontiac fits perfectly for 3 reasons.

(1) A Federalist Riding - Take a look at the numbers from 2004's election:

David Smith, Liberal: 15,358
L Hubert Leduc, Bloc: 11,685
Judith Grant, Conservative: 8,869
Gretchen Schwartz, NDP: 2,317
Thierry Vincente, Green: 1,673

Pontiac is a newly created riding [Pontiac-Gatineau-Labelle was abolished in 2003, but witnessed similarly easy victories for Liberals in 1997 and 2000, with decent-sized CA+PC 3rd place finishes]. Not only do the Conservatives have a reasonable base to start from in Pontiac, it is reasonable to think that any Liberal voters who wish to express frustration over the sponsorship scandal might not necessarily move toward the Bloc, who have never won here. Federalists will hold their noses for the Liberals if they fear that a separatist candidate might squeek through.

Take a read of the submissions to the Electoral Prediction Project for the riding. Seems that it is the only riding outside of Montreal with a substantial Anglophone population (25% according to the Globe's breakdown), so an obvious target that Peter McKay even visited last time around.

(2) A Lightweight and/or Inexperienced Liberal Opponent - David Smith was elected to the House for the first time in 2004. According to this article on the riding results from CBC, he knocked off Chretienite incumbent Robert Bertrand in the nomination fight. Given only one year in office, he is unlikely to have built the personal ties that might help popular local members overcome the negative association with the Liberal party brand.

(3) A Politically Savvy, Appealing Candidate - here's the key. As the CBC post-mortem article above noted, Judy Grant (the CPC candidate of '04) may have been a popular mayor, but her inability to speak decent French certainly cost her politically. No such problems with Cannon - check out his website and note his previous government experience, not only as a cabinet member for Bourassa but many years experience as a city councillor. I imagine this guy knows how to run an election campaign, and will also know the upshot of winning - a guaranteed Cabinet post.

So take those as the 3 criteria for Conservative success in Quebec this time around. I have to say that I like Cannon's chances a lot. Are there any other ridings where they can get this trifecta in place before election day? More on that as nomination announcements continue

If Harper could win 2-4 Quebec seats in a June 2005 election call, it would be a significant morale-boosting and political victory. Target #1 must be the road through Pontiac.


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