NDP guns down Lawrence Cannon in Pontiac Riding

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by Trevor Greenway on May 5, 2011

Former Pontiac MP and Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon speaks to reporters after his hearbreaking loss in the May 2 federal election

The early results were barely in, but Lawrence Cannon supporters knew how the rest of the night would turn out. A loud “F**k” from one gathered at Camp Fortune said it all: the Conservative cabinet member had been defeated by unheralded New Democratic Party candidate, Mathieu Ravignat.

“I’ve been in politics for some years now, so I’m accepting this defeat with a great deal of serenity,” Cannon told the Low Down in a sit-down interview, following his loss in the Pontiac riding.

“I am quite pleased with the things that we have been able to accomplish in the last five years, and I wish Mathieu Ravignat well,” he said. “We don’t share the same vision, we don’t share the same ideology, but nonetheless, he is the elected official in the riding and I wish him well.”

While you could connect the loss to a number of riding-specific issues – including washing his hands clean of protecting the Gatineau River, or his no-show at the Wakefield all-candidates meeting – Cannon said he wouldn’t have changed his campaign one bit and that the whole NDP surge through Quebec was to blame for the loss.

“I think this whole wave of NDP support and sympathy is something that nobody in the last three weeks was able to predict, it just came up,” he said. “It caught all of the Outaouais, caught all of the province of Quebec as a matter of fact, caught everybody by surprise.”

The mood at Cannon’s party headquarters in Chelsea began on a positive note, but anxiety mounted as the results trickled in. Cannon led early but Ravignat caught him, and the Conservative supporters began to worry.

The dozen journalists awaiting Cannon’s arrival chatted on cellphones and texted updates to colleagues as the MP’s supporters rubbed their heads in anguish, glued to the two big TV screens at Camp Fortune. Then the picture became clear and the room died instantly.

“We lost a good man, my friend, a good man,” said one supporter to another at the back of the room.

Paul Fydenchuk of Chelsea showed up in a good mood, but quickly changed his tune when he saw the results. He wouldn’t comment on the loss, saying only “There is nothing to be said.”

The entire country is now talking about the Pontiac riding, with Ravignat’s upset victory over the Canadian foreign affairs minister seen as a shock to the political world – a massive upset, for sure. Nobody even knew who Ravignat was until yesterday, but the Ottawa medieval sword fight aficionado is now garnering a lot of national attention.

Cannon didn’t lose in a tight race, either. He was basically stomped by Ravignat, who outpolled the incumbent by about 7,000 votes to grab 45.8 per cent of the Pontiac vote.

Cannon pulled in 29.5 per cent of the electorate’s support.

Liberal candidate Cindy Duncan McMillan, who was supposed to go head-to-head with Cannon in the main event of the Pontiac, slipped to third, with 12.7 per cent. Bloc candidate Maude Tremblay and Louis-Philippe Mayrand of the Green Party pulled in 10 per cent and 1.7 per cent, respectively.

Cindy Duncan McMillan didn’t comment on the results by press time.