Riding profile: Pontiac may see a battle in West Quebec

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The three federal ridings in Quebec closest to Ottawa have long trended towards Liberal representation, with occasional votes for other parties — most notably in 2011, when the NDP swept the region.


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Two of the ridings now feature well-regarded Liberal incumbents with strong constituency records and senior government responsibilities who both won over 50 per cent of the vote in the last two elections.

Then there is the third riding, the sprawling Pontiac, which may be causing Liberal planners to lose some sleep.


Population: 115,531 (2016)

Median household income: $75,990 (2015)

Median age: 40.9 (2016)

Will Amos, an environmental lawyer first elected to the riding in 2015 and re-elected in 2019, had a productive few years as MP, notably in environmental issues, relations with First Nations (an key topic in Pontiac, with the large population of Algonquin people in and around Maniwaki). He was also parliamentary secretary to the minister of Innovation, Science and Industry.


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Then came his horrible six weeks April and May when he was caught naked twice on Zoom conferences dealing with Commons colleagues. The first appearance was captured by a Bloc Québécois colleague and circulated worldwide.

Amos described the incidents as accidental and considered running for re-election, until a discussion with the Prime Minister’s Office. Amos has declined to describe the PMO discussions, but he announced in August he would not seek re-election. His office said Amos was receiving help with stress and time management.

The Liberal Party always seems to have a roster of talented candidates in waiting and days after Amos’s final announcement, Sophie Chatel, a career federal public servant specializing in tax matters was introduced as the next Liberal candidate. From September 2017 to June 2021, Chatel headed the tax treaty unit at the OECD Centre for Tax Policy and Administration. She also notes on her LinkedIn page that she was “also actively engaged in the OECD/G20 work towards a solution to the tax challenges arising from digitalization of the economy.”


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Her Twitter feed indicates she’s leaped into campaigning at full speed, with handshaking and meetings at rural markets and restos, and even courting voters on the trails of Gatineau Park.

Meanwhile, Michel Gauthier, former editor-in-chief of Le Droit newspaper, has been running hard for the Conservatives in the riding since well before the election was announced, reminding voters of both his journalism career and his long history of volunteering and coaching, everything from minor hockey to his current post as president of the Maison de la culture de la Vallée-de-la-Gatineau.

Shaughn McArthur, a member of the Green Party’s shadow cabinet, is running in Pontiac, kicking off his campaign with a 150 km paddle from Maniwaki to Ottawa to meet with community members and to amplify calls for real action on the “issues facing people and the planet”


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Denise Giroux, president of the Pontiac NDP Association, garnered 6,503 votes in 2019, placing fourth. She’s running again for the NDP in 2021, promising to address issues of poor Internet service and First Nation reconciliation among others.

The Bloc Québécois’s Gabrielle Desjardins, a 22-year-old university student, is the only other candidate so far listed.

Pontiac covers 30,586 square kilometres, stretching from Gatineau to an area about 200 kilometres north of Maniwaki. Among communities in the riding are the towns of Wakefield, Chelsea, and the Algonquin community of Kitigan Zibi.


Population: 105,419 (2016)

Median household income: $62,668 (2015)

Median age: 39.8 (2016)

The situation seems to be a bit calmer in Hull-Aylmer riding, which covers the two sections of the City of Gatineau bearing those names as well as more rural areas nearby.


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Incumbent Greg Fergus, a Liberal, began his political career in 2015 by defeating Nycole Turmel, a former president of the Public Service Alliance of Canada, by more than 21,000 votes.

In 2019, his second election, he won with more than 54 per cent of the vote.

In the last parliament Fergus, was parliamentary secretary to the prime minister, as well as chair of the Black parliamentary caucus.

Only two challengers have registered so far.

Simon Provost, a social science student at the Université du Québec en Outaouais, is running for the Bloc Québécois.

Sandrine Perion is listed as the Conservative party candidate.

Hull-Aylmer has a population of 105,419 at the last census and covers 62.11 square kilometres, and 67 per cent claimed French as their first language in the most recent census, although 69 per cent claimed understanding of both English and French.


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Population: 107,464 (2016)

Median household income: $67,866 (2015)

Median age: 41.5 (2016)

Like Greg Fergus, Steve MacKinnon was first elected in 2015, also sweeping out an NDP MP, Françoise Boivin, by a wide margin. His re-election in 2019 was more comfortable, as he garnered 54 per cent of the vote in a seven candidate field.

Prior to politics MacKinnon worked several years for Hill+Knowlton Strategies, a global public relations firm, as a senior vice-president.

McKinnon has been parliamentary secretary to the minister of public works since 2018.  

Robert Doucet is listed as the Conservative candidate.

The only other candidate registered to date is Mathieu St-Jean, running for the the People’s Party of Canada.

Gatineau, with a population of 107,464, is largely the former city of Gatineau, covering about 118 square kilometres east of the Gatineau River. It is overwhelmingly francophone, with 98,265 people claiming French as their first language at the last census.

ALSO: Read other published riding profiles for the Ottawa region



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