Monday, August 18, 2014

Riding History: Waterloo

The riding of Waterloo will be contested for the first time next year, created out of the former Kitchener-Waterloo riding currently represented by Conservative MP Peter Braid. The riding has an interesting history, and was once the seat of a future prime minister. The riding also has deep German roots, going back to the days when Kitchener was known as Berlin.

This is the second riding whose history I am profiling as part of the 2013 Kickstarter campaign. This riding was requested by backer Anthony Piscitelli, who generously contributed to the project that led to Tapping into the Pulse: Political public opinion polling in Canada, 2013. The ebook can be ordered here, or directly from Gumroad here, Amazon for your Kindle here, or from Kobo here.

The riding of Waterloo began its history as the riding of Waterloo North, which included both the cities of Waterloo and what would later be Kitchener. The riding was only first contested, however, in 1878.

Isaac Erb Bowman
In the first three elections from 1867 to 1874, Isaac Erb Bowman, a Liberal, won the riding by acclamation. Born in Woolwich as Isaac Erb Baumann, the Waterloo North MP was formerly a businessman and teacher and member of the legislature before Confederation. The son of Pennsylvanian Germans, Bowman was a proponent of confederation in the context of dominance from the United States. In 1865, he made a speech in the legislature concerning confederation, and the fears of eventual separation from Great Britain entirely, that would prove prescient:

"Assuming that we are laying the foundation of a British North American Empire, which is destined to become independent of the Mother Country, after our resources may become sufficiently developed, and our vast territory has been filled up with an industrious, intelligent, and thrifty population, I do not think such anticipation should induce us to vote against it."

Waterloo North, 1895
Bowman's first contested election in 1878 was not a successful one, as he was defeated by Hugo Kranz by a margin of 52.5% to 47.5%. Kranz, born in Lehrbach, Germany, and mayor of Berlin (Ontario) from 1874 to 1878, would be re-elected in 1882 by an even slimmer margin. But in 1887 Bowman made a comeback and ousted Kranz, defeating him again in 1891.

King and Erb Streets, 1882
Bowman did not run for re-election in 1896, and died a year later. The obituary in the Berliner Journal read that "with firm decisiveness in political matters, [Bowman] combined proper treatment of his opponents in elections, along with modest simple, friendly behaviour in person relations, and was, consequently, loved and respected by all classes."

Joseph Seagram
In 1896, Conservative Joseph Seagram won the riding. A breeder and distiller and former councilor for Waterloo, Seagram was well-known in the horse racing community and would be an inaugural inductee into the Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame in 1976. The founder of Seagram's, a maker of whiskey and other beverages that was sold off in 2000, Seagram's horses won 15 Queen's Plates. He was acclaimed in 1900, and won again in 1904. He did not run for re-election in 1908.

That year, the riding was won by William Lyon Mackenzie King. The future leader of the Liberals from 1919 to 1948, King would be prime minister from 1921 to 1926, again from 1926 to 1930, and yet again from 1935 to 1948. But as the MP for Waterloo North, King was named Minister of Labour and was acclaimed in a by-election following that appointment, as was the convention at the time.

King Street South, 1911
King would not call Waterloo North home for very long, as he was defeated by a margin of 52.2% to 47.8% in the 1911 election that saw Robert Borden's Conservatives come to power. King would later represent ridings in Prince Edward Island, elsewhere in Ontario, and in Saskatchewan.

Willaim Weichel
William Weichel defeated King in 1911. A merchant, he would later be the MPP for Waterloo North and mayor of Waterloo.

But Weichel would prove to be but a brief interlude in a long period of Liberal reign. Undoubtedly as a result of the First World War, the heavily German riding of Waterloo North swung to the Liberals in 1917 by a large margin. William Daum Euler, who would be re-elected seven times and be Waterloo's longest-serving MP, took 59% of the vote in the 1917 election.

Mayor of Berlin from 1913 to 1914, Euler had spoken out against anti-German sentiment at the outbreak of the war. That sentiment was so strong, of course, that Berlin would change its name after Lord Kitchener, who was then the Secretary of State for War in the British government.

Euler was re-elected in 1921 with a smaller margin, and again in 1925 and 1926. He was then appointed Minister of Customs and Excise, and would later become the Minister of National Revenue in 1927. In 1930, Euler won by his closest margin (57% to 43%) against Karl Homuth, who would have more success as the MP for Waterloo South over four terms. After winning by the largest margin he would manage in 1935 (63% to 20% for the Conservatives and 16% for the new CCF), Euler was named Minister of Trade and Commerce in 1935.

After winning again in 1940, just in time for his second war as an MP for Waterloo North, Euler was appointed to the Senate by Prime Minister King. He would sit there until 1961. In total, Euler would serve for 43 years in the House of Commons and Senate.

Manufacturer and former mayor of Kitchener, Louis Breithaupt, replaced Euler as the Liberal MP for the riding, winning a by-election in 1940 handily. He would be re-elected again in 1945 and 1949 (when the CCF hit its highest level of support in Waterloo North at 22%), before being appointed to be Lieutenant-Governor of Ontario.

In the by-election of 1952 to replace him, Liberal Norman Schneider prevailed with 44% of the vote against 39% for the PC candidate. She was Elizabeth Janzen, a secretary and the first female candidate to run in the riding. Schneider was a business executive, industrialist, and manager, and served in the 118th Battalion during World War I. Schneider would be re-elected in 1953 and 1957.

He was defeated in 1958, however, as the PCs took back the riding for the first time in 41 years in grand style, winning 55% of the vote against 34% for Schneider. It would be, until 1984, the best performance of the party in the riding's history. O.W. Mike Weichel, another veteran of the First World War, would be re-elected in 1962 and 1963. In the 1962 election, the New Democrats had their first run at the riding, capturing 16% of the vote.

Weichel did not seek re-election in 1965 and Keith Hymmen took it back for the Liberals with 46% of the vote. Hymmen, a chemical engineer and former mayor of Kitchener, would transfer over to the riding of Kitchener when the boundaries were changed for the 1968 election.

At that time, Waterloo North became Waterloo. Max Saltsman, formerly the NDP MP for Waterloo South since 1964, transferred over to Waterloo. It had become a better riding for the NDP, and Saltsman won it in 1968 by the closest of margins. The former alderman for Galt, who served in France, the Netherlands, and Germany with the Royal Canadian Air Force in World War II, took 34% of the vote. The Liberals took 33.1% and the PCs 32.5% - a razor-thin three-way race.

Saltsman won with a more comfortable margin in 1972 and again in 1974, when Waterloo briefly became Waterloo-Cambridge. In 1979, Saltsman did not run again and the boundaries were changed, the riding reverting to Waterloo. With Saltsman gone and the boundaries shifted, the NDP fell to 18% and the PCs took it. Walter McLean, a Waterloo alderman and former chaplain with the RCAF's 404 Wing, McLean would be re-elected by a slim margin in 1980 and more comfortably during the Brian Mulroney years in 1984 and 1988. He served as Secretary of State from 1984 to 1985, and Minister of State (Immigration) until 1986.

McLean did not run in the 1993 election and the Liberals stormed back with 48% of the vote, their best performance in 40 years. Andrew Telegdi took the riding, as a Reform Party candidate finished seond with 26%, just edging out the PCs with 24%. The NDP sunk to its lowest level of support at just 4.5% of the vote.

Telegdi was re-elected in 1997 when the riding became Kitchener-Waterloo, and the PCs moved back into second place. He was named Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration in 1998, and was re-elected in 2000, as the Canadian Alliance moved into second, and again in 2004 against the re-united Conservatives. He was named Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister with special emphasis on Aboriginal Affairs in 2004, and was re-elected in 2006 as Stephen Harper's Conservatives took power.

King Street South, today
In 2008, however, Telegdi was defeated by a margin of just 27 votes. With 36.1% of the vote to 36% for Telegdi, Peter Braid had just squeaked by. The Greens put up their best performance in the riding in their history, with 12%, coming not too far behind the NDP's 15%.

Braid's margin widened somewhat in 2011 (41% to 38%), and the MP has been Parliamentary Secretary for Infrastructure and Communities since 2013.

The riding has moved away from its German roots (Waterloo North had only two MPs who were not of obvious German descent - King and Seagram) but is still quite Liberal. The riding has been won 22 times by the Liberals in contested elections, and the party has averaged 46.8% support since 1867. That compares to 14 wins and 39% for the Conservatives and their predecessor parties. Kitchener-Waterloo was one of the better ridings for the Liberals in the disastrous 2011 campaign. Though it was, elsewhere, the worst election for the Liberal Party in its history, the 2011 result in Kitchener-Waterloo was better than its performances in the 1970s and 1980s, and was actually even an improvement over 2008.

Waterloo began its history as a Liberal riding, briefly flirted with the Conservatives at the turn of the century, and stuck with the Liberals for decades after the First World War. It was 40 years after the end of that conflict before the Conservatives were able to win again. But after the re-drawing of the boundaries in the 1960s, the riding went with the NDP or the PCs for 20 years, never having voted for Pierre Trudeau or John Turner. A safe riding during the Jean Chrétien years, will Waterloo return to the Liberal fold in 2015?


  1. My guess is it will go Liberal in 2015. Harper Govt. is slowly collapsing !!

    1. Big words for a party with an unproven drama teacher as leader, with no policies except legalising weed. The long term trend is clear the Liberal party has lost support in four consecutive elections. Everyone and their dog knows its majority or bust for the Liberal party next election-without a majority the Liberal party will not exist for the 43rd Canadian General Election.

      Once people are forced to compare a Liberal leader who is so disdainful of Canadians he has not offered up any policies and other party leaders with proven track records and a plan the Liberal number will come down to Earth faster than a lead balloon.

    2. The Conservatives did it a slacker grad student that took 10 years to get an economics degree and never had a real job in his life.

    3. No Peter the NDP is slowly collapsing-they've lost another M.P.!

      This is the quiet before the storm. Trudeau will be hammered for the next year by Tories and Dippers. This may even cause the Liberals to release a policy!

      Nobody has much faith in the Liberals any more, even John Manley's kid is trying to run for the NDP. If the Liberal poll numbers can rise dramatically on account of very little they will collapse just as swiftly.

    4. Well at least Harper was clever enough to get into Grad School-you're asking people to elect someone as prime minister because of who is dad was.

      Harper had a real job he was a M.P. for a term, president of a non-profit, the National Citizens Coalition and worked in the mail room and IT department of Imperial Oil but, Trudeau's vast experience as a drama teacher a total of two school years, makes Justin inevitably better qualified.

      I suspect the personal attacks are the result of inside knowledge among Liberals that the high poll numbers will not hold. Perhaps internal polls have already announced the fact.

    5. It comes down to honesty. Mr Harper is not a honest man, most eligible Canadians will not vote to support an honest man. It is unlikely this time that he will be able to manipulate things enough to win, as he did last time with less than 25% of eligible voters.

  2. Sometimes looking at historical vote indicators may not be good to see future trends. The PCs of the 1970s and 1980s were strong in parts of Toronto that are now two way battles between the Liberals and NDP. The Liberals were historically more stronger in rural Southwest Ontario, but this region has trended more towards the other parties in recent federal and provincial elections.

    There is a strong chance the federal Liberals can win the Waterloo riding, whether or not they return to power. This riding is low hanging fruit for them and as Eric has mentioned the vote count/share actually went up in 2011.

    It should be noted that the NDP currently holds the Kitchener-Waterloo seat at the provincial level which has the same boundaries as the federal seat which the Conservatives hold.

    1. Jay I'm going to throw out something for discussion: This part of your post:

      "The PCs of the 1970s and 1980s were strong in parts of Toronto that are now two way battles between the Liberals and NDP. "

      And my feeling is that in fact this is a result of a slow shift to the right by all parties !! I can't for instance, imagine, Tommy Douglas spewing the stuff Mulcair does now ! The Liberals have also shifted closer to and in sometimes are a bit right of centre. Again stuff even Pearson would have looked at askance !

      As to the Tories who are getting to be even right of the Republicans in the USA !! Diefenbaker or Mulroney must be disgusted ! So the whole political scene has slowly shifted and trying to figure out who will win based on history just may not work !

    2. Peter,

      You are off the mark. Diefenbaker would be proud that Harper has returned to tradition with the executive curl for the Navy and traditional ranks and insignia for the Army. He would agree with Harper's focus on the North and purchase of Arctic off-shore patrol vessels and he would likely be very pleased that a new Coast Guard icebreaker will be named the John G. Diefenbaker. He would agree with the Government's stance and promotion on the monarchy and likely welcome European free trade as a counter-balance to America.

      As for Mulroney he is still alive! Except for some generally positive words some years ago he has remained quiet but, it is hard to envision how the architect of Free Trade would disagree with European free trade. Mulroney would may be pleased that under a conservative Government the threat of separation has receded. In any case I doubt he is "disgusted" if he was he would have said so and he has not! I think that statement is wildly speculative and lacking evidence.

      It is unfair to compare political parties from different jurisdictions but, the Conservative are unlikely to be right of the Republicans on any objective measure. Conservatives support Medicare, Republicans opposed Obamacare, Conservatives support immigration and foreign investment, Republicans are trying to build a wall to keep immigrants out. The list goes on but, I hope you will get the point.

  3. This is a good point. There's a shift in Ontario, provincially at least. The NDP has strong local organization in small Ontario cities and has taken ridings from both Liberals and Conservatives (Kitchener/Waterloo, Sudbury, Niagara, Hamilton) whereas the Liberals have taken ridings in the GTA from Conservatives. Both parties have increased their vote count and their seats at the expense of the Conservatives. Indeed, this trend seems to be reflected federally where the Liberals where Adam Vaughan took Trinity Spadina for the Liberals from the NDP. The NDP seems to grow it's own local organization, whereas Trudeau seems to bring local organizations into the Party.

    I'm not convinced that Liberals have the local organization to take a majority this election. I think the NDP ground game in Ontario will make the NDP hard to beat in places like Waterloo while Liberals strength in the GTA. It's certainly playing that way in Quebec.

    It would be interesting to see if this shift towards the NDP and Liberals is reflected in polling of the GTA vs. Southern Ontario.

  4. This was great, Eric - I really enjoyed the in-depth look here. I'm almost curious if you would do requests!

    1. Thanks. I have another dozen or so left to do, so maybe the riding you have in mind is already scheduled.

  5. "The Greens put up their best performance in the riding in their history, with 12%, coming not too far behind the NDP's 15%." That's 27% out of the #LibCon race here.

    It's an open question what that vote will do in 2015. It's highly unlikely to shift Conservative, but how much of it will shift Liberal, and will it consolidate behind either the NDP or Greens?

    Waterloo is a high tech centre. It is dominated by its universities. The deliberate scheduling of elections in mid-October, when many or most students will not be registered or have the ID with their current in-school address in it, is one of the most cynically effective ways the Conservatives have suppressed this student vote.

    If the students got organized, though, and vote-swapped these NDP and Green votes out of Waterloo into closer ridings across the country, it'd be pretty devastating for the Conservatives.

    So I guess we wait to see if the highest tech universities in the country can figure out social media and how it applies to the vote...

    1. The main issue with riding based vote swapping is trust. There is no easy way to verify that the other person will/has performed as asked. It's a $5000 fine for taking a photo of your marked ballot. Thus, I could say I was swapping with one or more people and then vote as I originally intended. This ability to cheat the system makes people wary of participating in it at all.

      In truth, this is a clumsy workaround to a STV.


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