It may be too early to say for sure, but chances are the current SNC Lavalin controversy involving Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will have a huge affect on the outcome of this fall’s federal election.
In her first run for political office, Liberal Karina Gould defeated Conservative incumbent Mike Wallace by fewer than 3,000 votes in the riding of Burlington in 2015. Gould polled 45.98 per cent of the ballots cast, compared to 42.48 per cent for Wallace, a difference of just 3.5 per cent.
Overall voter turnout was high at 73.58 per cent of eligible voters.
In the riding of Oakville North-Burlington Pam Damoff, also seeking election for the first time, also won by fewer than 3,000 votes over Conservative Effie Triantafilopoulos, who since has been elected to the Ontario Legislature representing Oakville North-Burlington.
Gould was not affected by Trudeau’s latest mini cabinet shuffle, the second in less than two months. She remains the Minister of Democratic Institutions.
It is her job to make sure Canadian elections are protected from interference.
“I’ve worked very hard for Burlington over the last three and a half years,” Gould said. “I’m going to put my best foot forward, confident the people of Burlington will recognize that.”
Gould was home for the first two weeks of March because of a break in the sitting of the House of Commons. She attended many events associated with International Women’s Day.
Jane Michael, the Conservative candidate in Burlington, is taking a wait-and-see posture.
“I can’t even hazard a guess about the impact,” she said. “I think it’s unbelievable, I’ve never heard of anything like this in my lifetime. But I am following it with interest.
“Andrew Scheer has not dropped his platform yet and I don’t want to be talking ahead of Andrew Scheer.”
Pam Damoff, MP for the riding of Oakville North-Burlington and parliamentary secretary to Health Minister Ginette Petitpas Taylor, could not be reached for comment.
Sean Weir, a corporate lawyer who is running for the Conservatives in Oakville North-Burlington, said the controversy greatly enhances his chances of victory.
“People are very upset with what has happened,” he said. “I think our chances were very good before that, quite frankly. We’ve been getting a huge reception at the door.
“Trudeau made a promise to balance the budget by 2019 and he’s missed that.”
A recent poll by Forum Research showed that 59 per cent of Canadians said the situation will impact how they vote this fall. Fifty-seven per cent said it has worsened their opinion of Trudeau.
Nevertheless, most of the lack of support came from outside Ontario. For example, only 23 per cent of Liberal voters in Ontario said it has worsened their view of the Prime Minister.
The New Democratic Party has yet to nominate a candidate in either riding.
Andrew Drummond, president of the Burlington NDP riding association, said his group has not yet set a date for a nomination meeting.
“A couple of people showed interest in running, but had to withdraw their names because they would have had a hard time getting enough time off work,” he said.
Drummond ran in the 2018 provincial election, but says he will not seek the nomination this time.
“I think I put my family through enough the first time,” he said.
Drummond said the current SNC-Lavalin controversy definitely will have an impact on the election results in Burlington, and in his party’s favor.
“This scandal shows that the expectations of the Trudeau government, elected in 2015, have not been met,” he said.
Montreal-based SNC Lavalin has a subsidiary office on Skyview Drive in Burlington.