The federal government has yet to drop the writ for an election, but Newmarket-Aurora riding associations are preparing for the campaign to begin.
Both the local Liberal and Conservative associations have candidates in place for a widely speculated fall election campaign. Other parties have yet to confirm candidates but expect to in the coming weeks.
Incumbent Liberal MP Tony Van Bynen is defending his seat and was acclaimed to run again last winter, according to Newmarket-Aurora Federal Liberal Riding Association president Matt Gunning. He said given it is a minority government, the organization has been preparing for months for the possibility of an election call.
“We’ve been talking about election readiness basically non-stop since the last election,” he said “We’re focused on fundraising and we’re continuing to make sure our volunteer base is ready."
The Newmarket-Aurora riding was hotly contested in the past two elections, with the Liberals coming out ahead by 1,459 votes in 2015 and 3,256 votes in 2019. Before that, the seat was held by Conservative MP Lois Brown for two terms between 2008-2015.
The Newmarket-Aurora Conservative Association made its pick Aug. 5, with newcomer candidate Harold Kim, currently deputy mayor of Aurora.
Other parties, including the NDP, the Green Party and People’s Party of Canada, have yet to declare a nominee.
Newmarket-Aurora Conservative Association president Matt Buist said their campaign has had to wait to get started due to the nomination process. But he said they are eager to get rolling.
“We have been sitting on our hands because we couldn’t campaign until we had a candidate. Now we do,” Buist said. “We’ve got to get our wheels moving forward, comparatively in a short period of time.”
Newmarket-Aurora NDP Riding Association president Rick Gregory also said their campaign is limited by law until they select their nominee. But he said they have struck a committee and are planning what they can.
“Until the vetting process is complete and the nomination is complete, we’re kind of just treading water,” Gregory said.
Green Party official Rosie Emery said they have no nominee yet, but it could change in a week or two.
People’s Party of Canada spokesperson Martin Masse said they have a candidate application but it has not been fully processed yet.
This will be the first federal election held in a pandemic. Gunning said door knockers would be masked and keep physically distanced. He said addressing COVID-19 will be a key issue on the trail.
“Very focused on the message about the Liberal party’s belief in science and belief in vaccination,” he said. “Our voters are going to want to know that is a message we’re delivering at the door.”
Buist said the pandemic might curtail the scale of door-knocking campaigns.
“There will be a lot of social media campaigning. There will be a lot more direct mail and perhaps telephone campaigning,” he said.
Gregory said they are preparing for a purely virtual campaign given the pandemic.
“Limited, if any, face-to-face contact. Our sense is that people don’t want to see faces they don’t recognize,” Gregory said. “People are more resilient than we give them credit for and I think we’ll figure out ways of getting our message out to people.”
Gunning said it is hard to know what kind of attention the riding might get federally. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau made a stop in Newmarket during the last election, but that could change.
“We believe we will see the prime minister in and around the GTA fairly often during the campaign,” he said. “I’d love to think we can get ourselves so far ahead that they didn’t view it as necessary to be here.”
Gregory said the NDP will allot resources based on where it can get the biggest return on investment, but the basics still happen at the local level. He said they would welcome a media event from the national party, but the pandemic could curtail any leader visits.
“Big media event opportunities are going to be few and far between if we’re fighting a fourth wave of COVID,” he said.
Buist said Newmarket-Aurora is a swing riding the national party is eager to change.
“They are very anxious to make sure that Newmarket-Aurora has all the tools,” Buist said. “There’s two things you need to be successful, volunteers and money. We don’t have enough of both, but we are sufficient of both to run a very strong campaign.”