OTTAWA – Former prime minister Jean Chretien used his star power to endorse Liberal candidate Catherine McKenna on Saturday as the race in the riding of Ottawa Centre tightens.
Chretien visited McKenna’s local riding office along with a crowd of supporters in an effort to give the candidate one final boost before voters go to the polls on Oct. 21.
“I’m telling you that we will have a Liberal government on Monday,” said Chretien in his distinctive boisterous tone. “We need more values like the ones we’ve fought for all our lives.”
In what felt like more of a re-elect Chretien rally, with spurts of cheering and applause, Canada’s 20th prime minister spoke about the state of politics in Canada and why the Liberal party remains the most “fiscally responsible, and socially preoccupied.”
“We have to be realistic, we have to devise judgment. You know, we can be preoccupied with the environment and at the same time take the resources that God gave to us and that will be used for the world for some time.”
McKenna walked into the rally, arm-in-arm with Chretien, touting her party’s climate plan and praising her campaign team.
“Last election you took a chance on me, and we won, and we have worked so hard, and we’re going to win again,” said McKenna. “I’ve committed that if I’m re-elected there will be more affordable housing, there will be more public transit, and there will be more climate action.”
Before McKenna took office in 2015, Ottawa Centre had long been occupied by the NDP.
During an interview on CTV’s Power Play on Friday, CEO of Advanced Symbolics Erin Kelly, whose company uses artificial intelligence to make predictions about seat projections, said the Ottawa Centre riding will be one to watch as the NDP gains popularity.
“When the election started [McKenna] was strong in her riding and she was clearly going to win it,” said Kelly. “Now we’re seeing the NDP coming up strongly, McKenna’s still in the lead, but she’s in trouble.”
NDP candidate Emilie Taman was also out Saturday canvassing with volunteers and her father Larry, who’s been by her side since she first ventured into politics years ago as a candidate in another Ottawa region.
“She genuinely connects with people, she’s interested in them, she cares about them and I think people sense that,” her father told CTVNews.ca. “Here in the riding, she’s demonstrated that over a long period of time.”
Volunteers were told to focus on the NDP’s “head-to-toe” health-care plan as well as climate change on Saturday, the two issues that Taman said are of most concern for this riding. She said climate change is a topic her team can point to as McKenna’s weakness.
“That’s [McKenna’s] biggest vulnerability. She’s part of the cabinet that bought a pipeline, while she was the minister of the environment,” said Taman. “People in a riding like this notice that.”
Taman was interrupted by a resident who said she had to vote with her “conscience this time around,” which meant voting Green, but not because she doesn’t “support the NDP.”
Taman said support for the Greens had dropped in the region. Taman also said there’s been an instrumental shift within the last three weeks around the sentiment of NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh.
“It’s fascinating to feel it on the ground. In the summer people were saying ‘I’m just not sure about your leader,’” said Taman. “Low and behold as people have had the opportunity to get to know him more, they’re seeing that.”
Just a few streets down from the New Democrats canvas team, the Conservative base under the leadership of candidate Carole Clemenhagen, was mobilizing. Their plan on the last Saturday of the campaign is to “listen.”
“We really want to hear what the voters’ top of mind issue is,” Clemenhagen told CTVNews.ca. “The issues that have really struck me have had to do with affordability questions.”
Passing over houses with Liberal and NDP signs, Clemenhagen says her team’s approach now is to focus on the houses they know are still undecided and who have concerns with the incumbent party.
“There has been questioning of her [McKenna’s]absence on local issues. There are a lot of things here in Ottawa Centre that people are concerned about and the federal MP seems to be preoccupied or just not involved.”
The Conservative candidate added that she hears mixed reviews from voters about the party’s leader Andrew Scheer.
“Some people are very enthusiastic supporters, and really like his personality and where he comes from. He’s an ordinary guy; he’s like the guy who lives next door, that’s very appealing. Then certainly there are other people who haven’t quite got a feel for him.”
Each candidates’ leader is doing their own fair share of campaigning today. Trudeau and Scheer are spending part of their day in Ontario, while Singh stays put on the West Coast.