NDP’s Mathieu Ravignat steers to win in Pontiac, defeats cabinet minister Lawrence Cannon


by Lucy Scholey on May 5, 2011

NDP candidate and new Pontiac MP Mathieu Ravignat speaks to reporters in Wakefield, Quebec following Monday's election results

By now you likely know the new MP for Pontiac. Or at least his identity.

Mathieu Ravignat, a medieval sword connoisseur, karate instructor, champion of environmental issues, founder of an Ottawa University student workers’ union and lesser known NDP candidate managed to sweep in late in the federal election campaign and dethrone the incumbent Conservative MP – and Minister of Foreign Affairs – Lawrence Cannon.

But up until a week ago, you probably had not heard of the New Democratic Party upstart.

Ravignat’s long-shot attempt to win the Pontiac seat became more of a reality during the final two weeks of the campaign, when voter projection polls showed NDP support gaining in the region – as in the rest of Quebec.

It was still quiet the night of the May 2 election after the polls closed. Scott Hebert-Daly’s home in La Peche served as party central for Ravignat, but it was down a deep dark road in Masham and at the end of a glow stick-lit driveway.

Downstairs a group of almost 20 orange-moustached supporters – NDP leader Jack Layton lookalikes – sat in Hebert-Daly’s “man cave” and cheered as Ravignat pulled ahead in the race.

Post victory, Ravignat appeared calm and levelheaded as he took one-on-one interviews with the few reporters present and phone calls from other media.

“I’m feeling honoured to be the MP,” he said, adding that he worked hard in his short(er) campaign run. The breakdown of votes per region within Pontiac was still not available at press time.

Ravignat attributed his win to both his own potential as a candidate and the growing support for the NDP across the country, which landed the second-highest number of seats (102) to become the official opposition. The Conservatives scored their hoped-for majority with 167 seats, the Liberals crashed to 34, the Bloc Quebecois had four and the  Green Party one.

“Clearly, we had a platform that responded to the needs of the people in this region,”  Ravignat said.

The new MP listed pensions, family farms and the forestry industry among his top priorities, adding that he would have to meet with caucus members to nail down key issues in the region.

But when asked for his stance on the planned regional sewage treatment plant and Wakefield’s light industrial park – two heated issues specific to the MRC des Collines region – Ravignat was more hesitant.

“Right now, we’re in victory mode,” he said.

In his post-win acceptance speech, he thanked his fellow candidates and promised to start working for Pontiac right away.

He said he would first spend time with partner Fida Abou-Nassif and daughters Sophia and Gabriella.

Ravignat won over 45.8 per cent of the Pontiac electorate with 22,497 votes. Cannon had 14,469 votes (29.5 per cent), Liberal Cindy Duncan McMillan garnered 6,259 votes (12.7 per cent), and Bloc contender Maude Tremblay finished with 4,923 votes (10 per cent).

Green Party hopeful Louis-Philippe Mayrand with 852 votes (1.7 per cent) and Marxist-Leninist flag-bearer Benoit Legros with 115 votes (0.2 per cent), brought up the rear.

Out of all eligible Pontiac voters, 59.7 per cent headed to the polls (49,115 out of 82,308). That’s higher than the previous 2008 election, which had a 54.6 per cent voter turnout.