'It could go either way': Edmonton Centre riding has tossed between Tories, Liberals

·3 min read

EDMONTON — The riding of Edmonton Centre is a lot like other urban downtown neighbourhoods in Canada.

Home to many cultural landmarks, it attracts singles and couples in their 20s and 30s who want a vibrant lifestyle and quick access to transportation while saving for a mortgage.

"It's an urban city riding where you have kind of lower-median incomes than the Edmonton, Alberta average. So they're smaller households, even if individuals living in those households are often white-collar workers," says Feo Snagovsky, an assistant professor in the University of Alberta's political science department.

"It also tends to be a really well-educated riding, so you have more university degrees."

The riding is bordered to the north by a rail line and the busy Yellowhead Trail highway and stretches south to the North Saskatchewan River.

Conservative candidate James Cumming won the seat in 2019 and was shadow minister for COVID-19 economic recovery under leader Erin O’Toole.

Cumming gained 41.4 per cent of the vote, with Liberal incumbent Randy Boissonnault coming in behind with 33 per cent.

Before Boissonnault, Laurie Hawn held the riding for the Conservatives for three terms.

This election, Boissonnault is back trying to reclaim the seat for the Liberals.

"In 2019, in Alberta, there was a pretty big swing against the Liberals (and) Edmonton Centre was no exception," Snagovsky explains.

Despite the Conservative stronghold, Snagovsky says polls suggest there could be a Liberal tilt on Monday.

"I think it could go either way."

Also running in Edmonton Centre this election is Heather MacKenzie for the NDP.

The 2016 census shows there were 109,941 people living in the riding and 83,112 were registered voters.

Aside from English, many in the riding also speak Tagalog, Mandarin and Spanish.

With 25 per cent of the population consisting of immigrants, Snagovsky says Edmonton Centre "tends to be more diverse in the province as a whole, but less diverse than the rest of the city."

Tall buildings line the downtown and the nearby neighbourhood of Rossdale is nestled in the lush river valley.

North of downtown, in the McDougall neighbourhood, many people live on the streets.

"Whenever I walk downtown, it's something I notice … just how many folks don't have a place to go home. So people are concerned about that," Snagovsky says.

Indigenous people make up a large proportion of the riding's homeless population, Snagovsky adds, and reconciliation may also be on the minds of voters.

Opioid use in the city's core is also an issue, even though the country's opioid crisis hasn't been much of a topic of debate during the election campaign.

"But I think it's something that people in the riding will definitely be interested in," Snagovsky says.

Child care, which is a key platform item for the Liberals, is also an issue that hits close to home for those in Edmonton Centre, Snagovsky adds.

The Liberals introduced a national daycare program in their April budget aiming to cut fees down to an average of $10 a day within five years, signing agreements with eight provinces. Alberta and Ontario have yet to sign on.

The Conservatives have instead pitched a refundable tax credit that would cover up to 75 per cent of child-care costs, or a maximum of $6,000, for Canada's lowest-income families.

"The folks in the riding are more likely to be thinking about having kids," says Snagovsky. "So they might be thinking more about what affordable child care is available in the near future."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 16, 2021.

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This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Facebook and Canadian Press News Fellowship.

Fakiha Baig, The Canadian Press

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