The New Democratic Party is pouring more resources into the campaign against Trudeau, believing his riding could be up for grabs.
Papineau NDP candidate Anne Lagace-Dowson has set up shop in the campaign offices of Alexandre Boulerice, the NDP incumbent in neighbouring riding Rosemont-La Petite-Patrie. Lagace-Dowson is using Boulerice’s volunteers in the hopes Papineau will be swallowed up in a repeat of 2011’s Orange Wave.
“It’s a question of merging their volunteers with ours, there are over 250 volulnteers,” says Lagace-Dowson, the former journalist. “Trying to map out where we need to prioritize outreach.” The NDP believes Boulerice is a lock to win, so it’s comfortable blitzing a neighbouring riding if it means tackling Trudeau.
This isn’t Lagace-Dowson’s first campaign for the NDP, she was the party’s candidate in 2008, coming in second to Liberal Marc Garneau in the riding of Westmount.
Going up against a star candidate is very different from challenging the leader of a federal party, but she believes Trudeau’s policy is his weakness especially when it comes to his support for the controversial Conservative anti-terror law C-51.
“Pierre Elliot Trudeau would be scandalized to see what Justin Trudeau has done in voting to support that bill,” she said.
That comparison to his father could be Trudeau’s achilles heel. Critics continually point to his father’s political prowess in winning several elections on his way to two stints as prime minister, first between 1968-79 and then 1980-84. Some don’t think Justin’s political depth comes even close to his father’s.
Another issue for the younger Trudeau: the riding’s demographics are shifting. Even though 47 per cent of the people in Papineau don’t list French or English as their mother tongue, a growing number of Francophones are moving into the riding, and that could hurt Trudeau.
Many remember how Trudeau’s father repatriated the Constitution in 1982 without Quebec, and that’s why the Trudeau name is a double-edged sword in the province.
“For nationalists, for people who don’t like the arrogance that historically Ottawa might have shown towards Quebec, the Trudeau name is sort of associated with that kind of arrogance,” explained Concordia University political science professor Daniel Salee. And that arrogance is why some Quebeckers will never vote for a Trudeau.
It seems almost unfathomable that Trudeau could lose his seat, but it’s very possible when you look at the math. In the 2011 election, just 5600 votes separated Trudeau from the second-place NDP and third-place Bloc Quebecois candidates.
If just half of those Bloc Quebecois voters decide to move to the NDP, Trudeau will lose.
Despite those numbers, party brass are confident their candidate will come out on top. “The leader (Trudeau) has to be all over the country but he’s been in Papineau quite a bit in the last year or two and he’s a very popular candidate,” says Dan Gagnier, the Liberal’s national campaign co-chair.
Earlier in the campaign, Trudeau himself brushed off a question about his riding being in danger, saying he’s been proud to serve the people of Papineau since 2008.
There’s no doubt Trudeau is popular in his riding, as people marvel at how he is often seen at local Greek festivals and other community events. It remains to be seen if his father’s political baggage will be too much for him to carry the Grits to victory.