Race for what's been called 'Canada's safest Liberal seat' heats up quickly
Make no mistake about Larry Smith. The man is a politician, and a darn good one.
That's why incumbent Liberal MP Francis Scarpaleggia now has his work cut out for him.
Smith's announcement of his candidacy was rife with football metaphors – playing on his time as a CFL player, CFL commissioner and president of the Montreal Alouettes – and didn't really reflect much in the way of his ideas, his policies and his strategies for dealing with some of the pitfalls of living in that particular riding, which has voted exclusively Liberal since it was formed in 1997.
Scarpaleggia's right-leaning bent has popped up a few times over the years – his vote to re-open the same-sex marriage debate raised a few eyebrows in the decidedly small-L liberal riding, which prides itself on environmental initiatives and inclusion – but he has been a conscientious, thoughtful representative of Lac St. Louis residents in Ottawa since taking over the job from his old boss Clifford Lincoln.
He must now concern himself more with his perception in the riding than his work in Ottawa, and the argument can also be made that any move in that direction would be a positive one and would give voters a better chance to get to know him and his personality.
Smith, however, has the opposite task in front of him. He must convince Lac St. Louis voters that he is more steak than sizzle, something Montreal Gazette employees have never forgiven him for after his one-year stint as publisher of the daily paper ended in 2003.
Smith must find policies that differ from the Liberals' and challenge Scarpaleggia on them; he must convince voters and the media that he will take this job seriously and not plan on riding his personality and his grin to victory, because it didn't work in 2008, when Michael Fortier was parachuted in by the Conservatives to a splintered Vaudreuil-Soulanges riding and was routed by the incumbent Bloc candidate. It seemed to voters than that Fortier expected to walk in and sweep the riding, even though he had very little firsthand knowledge of the area and its population.
Over the next few months, election speculation will continue to heat up, and with Smith having publicly announced his candidacy this early, you can be sure that an election will soon follow.
For the first time in a long time, it appears as though there will be a federal race for a West Island seat – and Lac St. Louis voters are the big winners.