To form majority government, a party needs to win at least 170 of the 338 federal ridings where Canadians are voting on Oct. 21. Not all of those races will have surprising or significant outcomes, but some races are hotly contested, which is why you’ve likely seen the party leaders there more often than in other places.
The Globe and Mail’s election team put together a list of 21 ridings of particular interest, from Vancouver-Granville (where Jody Wilson-Raybould, ousted from the Liberal Party over the SNC-Lavalin affair, is running for re-election as an Independent) to St. John’s East in Newfoundland (where a former NDP MP is trying to wrest control back from the Liberals). As you go through this guide, you’ll see maps of some of the ridings to watch in each region. Keep the full list handy on election night, when you can see live riding-by-riding results come in on globeandmail.com.
There’s also much to be learned from where the party leaders spent most of their time. Ontario, and in particular the strategic 905 region (more on that below), got more visits than any part of the country, according to The Globe’s analysis.
The Liberal, Conservative and NDP campaign planes have been busy carrying the leaders across the country to Vancouver and neighbouring Richmond, Burnaby, New Westminster and Surrey. This is where about half of B.C.'s residents live. The ridings have been known to switch loyalties before and pollsters have had a hard time predicting where they’ll turn this time, B.C. Bureau reporter Ian Bailey explains.
The chief issue is the environment – B.C. is the endpoint for the Trans Mountain Pipeline, which the Trudeau government wants to expand, a move the provincial NDP government opposes – but housing prices and transit infrastructure are also big local concerns.
B.C. is also the heartland of the Green Party, whose leader, Saanich-Gulf Islands MP Elizabeth May, is trying to win over more seats on Vancouver Island. Victories in the southern part of the island by provincial Green MLAs have given the party hope of a federal breakthrough, Justine Hunter and Greg Mercer report.
Alberta has had relatively few campaign visits by the federal leaders – including Andrew Scheer, whose Conservatives are expected to tighten their hold on the province – but it has been a phantom presence in races across the country. The debate about how to combat climate change is also about the future of the oil sands, Alberta’s main industry. The recent slump of oil prices and the sluggish recovery since then have embittered many Albertans, and whoever wins on Oct. 21 may find it challenging to win back voters’ trust there. Alberta Bureau Chief James Keller and economics reporter David Parkinson took a broad look at the political mood in Alberta and specifically in Medicine Hat, known as the Gas City, where the province’s economic anxieties have been playing out in miniature.
The New Democrats have one Alberta riding, Edmonton-Strathcona, but the provincial capital – which is also the starting point of the Trans Mountain Pipeline – hasn’t been a welcoming place for the NDP since Leader Jagmeet Singh promised to scrap the expansion project. Incumbent MP Heather McPherson told The Globe that Edmonton-Strathcona is where the party will make its final stand in the province, but her strategy is coming less from Mr. Singh and more from NDP ex-premier Rachel Notley, who supported Trans Mountain.
Heavily Indigenous ridings helped bring Justin Trudeau’s Liberals to power in 2015 when he promised a fresh, nation-to-nation relationship. Since then, friction with First Nations over oil pipelines and the expulsion from the party of Indigenous cabinet minister Jody Wilson-Raybould have led to some buyer’s remorse in those ridings. The NDP is trying to capitalize on that in Kenora, Ont., where the chief of the Grassy Narrows First Nation – long at odds with Ottawa over its slow response to mercury contamination – is trying to unseat Liberal Bob Nault.
Next to Kenora lies Thunder Bay-Superior North, Liberal Patty Hajdu’s riding, where Globe reporter Kathryn Blaze Baum visited the Red Rock Indian Band’s territory to see what voters think of the Liberals’ track record on reconciliation. Resident Joel Haskell voted Liberal last time but says he won’t do so again: “There were lots of lies,” he said.
The suburbs of the Greater Toronto Area, commonly called “the 905” for its main area code, tend to switch party allegiances en masse. These ridings backed the Conservatives in 2011 and the Liberals in 2015, but Nanos Research polls in the campaign’s early weeks found a competitive race between both parties. But both parties’ leaders have disadvantages there: Mr. Scheer suffers from a low profile and associations with Ontario Premier Doug Ford, while Mr. Trudeau’s past use of racist makeup could hurt him in the ethnically diverse suburbs. Queen’s Park reporter Laura Stone talked to some of the parties’ contenders in 905 ridings, such as Milton, Ont., where incumbent Conservative Lisa Raitt is up against a former Olympian now running for the Liberals, Adam van Koeverden.
Then there’s Waterloo, another bellwether in federal elections, which Wilfrid Laurier University political scientist Barry Kay described to The Globe as a “mini 905.” Columnist John Ibbitson spent a day talking to voters on Kitchener-Waterloo’s new regional light-rail line and at a local mall, where the economy, transit infrastructure and unaffordable housing prices were hot topics of conversation.
Montreal and Quebec City have most of the province’s people (and seats) between them, but much of the parties’ attention has been focused in between them at Trois-Rivières. The NDP-held riding is one of many where the Liberals, Conservatives and Bloc Québécois sense the New Democrats are vulnerable. When the writ was first issued in September, reporters Les Perreaux and Daniel Leblanc reported from the region about what voters were preoccupied with: the province’s controversial religious-symbols law; Mr. Trudeau’s still-much-discussed trip to India; and Mr. Scheer’s then-still-unclear stand on abortion.
In October, Mr. Perreaux spent time with the NDP’s Ruth Ellen Brosseau in Louiseville, Que., where she’s trying to hold on to her seat against Conservative challenger Josée Bélanger. Ms. Brosseau was one of the unknown New Democrats propelled to office by the “Orange Wave” of late leader Jack Layton. Now, her success depends on whether a 99-per-cent-white riding will accept a party led by Mr. Singh, the first person of colour to lead a federal party into an election.
Atlantic Canada went solid red in the last election, but the Conservatives and NDP have been working hard to change that. Even the Greens have a shot at Atlantic seats: In Prince Edward Island, as in Vancouver Island, the provincial Greens have made major gains and became PEI’s Official Opposition for the first time this April. Here’s more background on PEI’s part in the Greens’ bicoastal blitz.
The struggle for power in Atlantic Canada has put a lot of attention on small farming towns such as Sussex, N.B., whose former Conservative MP, voted out in 2015, is trying to win back the riding of Fundy Royal. Atlantic Bureau Chief Greg Mercer looked closer at Fundy Royal and other Maritime ridings that are up for grabs. He also reported on how former cabinet ministers such as Scott Brison of the Liberals and Peter MacKay of the Conservatives are lending a hand to newcomers in Nova Scotia ridings (Kings-Hants and Central Nova, respectively) that were their personal fiefdoms for decades.
Compiled by Globe staff
With reports from Ian Bailey, Justine Hunter, James Keller, David Parkinson, Justin Giovannetti, Kathryn Blaze Baum, Laura Stone, Les Perreaux, Daniel Leblanc and Greg Mercer
Consult our library of election explainers to get an overview of where the parties stand on everything from climate policy to gun control.