The 2021 federal election is in full swing and in the third day of the campaign since Parliament was dissolved by Governor General Mary Simon, Liberal leader Justin Trudeau made a brief campaign stop in Aurora.
Trudeau, accompanied by Aurora-Oak Ridges-Richmond Hill Liberal candidate Leah Taylor Roy, visited Machell’s Alley, the new gathering space on Yonge Street, located just south of Wellington Street, to meet with residents on Aug. 17 before stopping in at local businesses near the busy intersection.
The stop, which was briefly marred by anti-mask protestors, was the first visit of a federal leader to either of Aurora’s ridings ahead of the Sept. 20 election.
In Aurora-Oak Ridges-Richmond Hill, Taylor Roy is making a second attempt to unseat Conservative incumbent Leona Alleslev on a ballot that also includes Ceylan Borgers as candidate for the Green Party.
An NDP candidate for Aurora’s south riding had not been confirmed at publication time.
In Newmarket-Aurora, Yvonne Kelly will carry the NDP’s orange banner, challenging incumbent Liberal Tony Van Bynen and freshman Conservative candidate Harold Kim, who is taking a leave of absence from Aurora council for the duration of the campaign.
Also in the race is Lana Morgan, representing the People’s Party of Canada.
Hours before the Liberal leader visited Aurora-Oak Ridges-Richmond Hill, Alleslev questioned the timing of the election, particularly as the fight against COVID-19 continues.
“This is the fourth wave,” Alleslev said. “From a focus and energy perspective, we should be focused on getting everybody positioned for post-COVID economic recovery. $500 million could very well be spent on more important things than an election, like making investments in those fundamental things to get our economy, health and safety back on track, and this is just a challenge in this timeframe. There is no reason to go for an election now, other than for Justin, I can only guess, to try and get a majority.”
These sentiments were shared by both Kim and Kelly.
“Less than two years after the last [election] doesn’t make sense and even more so given that we have just started on the fourth wave,” said Kim of the Sept. 20 poll date. “Can we afford to take attention away from managing COVID for five weeks? I think the Liberals need to focus on COVID and not on their political fortunes.”
Added Kelly: “We don’t know what we’re going to be facing in the next few months with the potential fourth wave. I don’t really agree with the timing of [the election], but it wasn’t unexpected.”
From the perspective of Aurora’s two Liberal candidates, however, it is important for the pandemic-related measures spearheaded by the Liberal government to receive a “mandate” from voters.
“When we went to the polls the last time, nobody knew COVID was coming and I think there have been so many differences of opinion on how to handle COVID across the country,” says Taylor Roy. “The feeling was there really is a need to go back to the polls and get a mandate from the people. Is this the way we want to proceed forward? We’re still not out of this.
“People know what we stand for, our platform is pretty clear, and the Liberals want to move forward on a lot of these really important issues.”
“We’re just beginning to turn the corner on the way that we have responded to COVID and the decisions that we need to make now [for] recovery from COVID – economic and social – will have very long-term implications,” noted Van Bynen. “It is important that we validate our mandate going forward. The world is totally different since 2019 when we received a minority government and now it is time for us to make sure that the direction that we seek, which will be significant, has the support of Canadians.”
Brock Weir is a federally funded Local Journalism Initiative reporter at The Auroran