The Riding is the story of Neil Campbell, a naïve and idealistic truck-dealer and avid fisherman from the small town of Blackfly Arm, Ontario, who finds himself running for, and elected to, the Canadian Parliament when Gertrude Entwistle, the member representing his constituency (or “riding”), has a nervous breakdown and quits politics.Montague Hanson, a powerful cabinet member in the government, wants to have his own candidate parachuted in to fight the election; while visiting Blackfly Arm during the nomination campaign, he begins a dalliance with Trixie Miller, a local waitress.
Despite Montague’s best efforts, Neil’s collection of friends help queer the chances of the other challengers.Neil discovers himself to be a natural orator, and wins the election handily.Montague, admitting defeat, takes Neil under his wing, rather than risk losing influence with the new parliamentarian.
Once in Ottawa, Neil befriends television reporter Patsy Bollard, who has covered his campaign; she is attracted to him but he is married, and the relationship stays platonic despite her continuing efforts. Montague, meanwhile, helps Trixie to secure government funding for an exclusive health club in Ottawa.
As the year progresses, Neil discovers a real-estate conspiracy involving Montague.He enlists Patsy’s aid to expose the scandal, but the conspirators have covered their tracks too well.Neil´s battle against political corruption, and against his growing attachment to Patsy, draw to a climax.