Election 2021: What to watch for in Kitchener Centre riding

Voters in Waterloo Region and across the country will head to the polls on Sept. 20.

Andrea Perrella from Wilfrid Laurier University joined CTV Kitchener ahead of the 2021 federal election to break down the Kitchener Centre riding.

CTV Kitchener: Typically in federal elections, it's been quite close between the Liberals and Conservatives in this riding in particular. In the 2019 election, we saw a surge of support for the Green party, Mike Morrice finishing second. So, how much of a threat does he pose for this election?

Perrella: The Greens face a couple of challenges nationally. Number one is awareness. One thing that Mike Morrice has going for him is that I think people now are more aware that there's a Green candidate running, sometimes they're not even aware of that. So that is a Green candidate, he's very visible, his signs are all over the place. And that he's viable, so he's not to someone new, he's known, and he's got local presence. He's from the area, so I think he's got a pretty good chance to improve his vote share this time around.

CTV: How much of the recent allegations that have come to light against the Liberal incumbent Raj Saini maybe impacted what some of the polling might be in that riding this week?

Perrella: You know I'm not too sure about that. Prior to these allegations surfacing, I thought Kitchener Centre was still a relatively safe seat for the Liberals. Maybe not a walk in the park, maybe not a sure thing, but certainly, certainly viable for the Liberals. What I find now is that with these allegations surfacing, it may discourage Liberal voters from turning out, it may push some of them or may encourage some of them to go to the Greens or to the NDP. I'm not sure about that, but it's certainly in play.

CTV: For the conservatives, this is historically a bellwether riding. But in the provincial election we saw that break because, of course, the NDP were elected there. So, if there is a surge of support for the NDP in this riding could we see this play out at the federal level?

Perrella: Campaigns have a funny way of just making things happen that you didn't expect.

One thing that happened in 2018 provincially is that a lot of people, a lot of Liberal supporters were defecting away from the Ontario Liberals because of their disaffection towards Kathleen Wynne, but they weren't necessarily flocking to the Progressive Conservatives. Doug Ford's campaign wasn't all that great either. The Progressive Conservatives did not run a great campaign in 2018. There was just so much fatigue with the Liberals, so much fatigue with Kathleen Wynne, that Liberal voters didn't turn out as much and, if they did, they weren't ready to park their vote or to cast a ballot for the Conservatives.

So, they did go to the NDP, so that definitely helped. But also, the NDP was a growing factor. They weren't speaking to the voters in a manner that normally Liberals did. So that was also going in favour for the NDP back in a provincial election. In this election, a lot of things are in flux. Whether Kitchener Centre will go NDP or not, is for me a little less likely. If anything, I think the Liberals might squeak by.

But, probably the Conservatives may pick this one up.

It was held by the Conservatives prior. So this is not an unusual situation for Kitchener Centre, so we can swing between the Conservatives and the Liberals, and there can be a surprise as we seen in the provincial election. It all depends on how the rest of the campaign unfolds.

CTV: Are we seeing a demographic shift in that riding at all that maybe made them lean more towards NDP or or parties that are more left of centre?

Perrella: There's always a demographic shift happening in the region as we all know there are lots and lots of people moving in here from previously from the GTA, because of the cost of living being out of reach in many of the GTA areas.

Now, Waterloo Region has become more and more like the GTA, it's become more and more like Mississauga, more like Whitby. But in terms of Kitchener Centre, in some ways its demographic profile is similar to the rest of Canada. Its income may be a little bit lower than the national average, but it's similar to the rest of the country in terms of the per cent of the population that speaks either English or French or speaks, other than English or French, similar level of the population that is from immigrant backgrounds. So there are lots of similarities of Kitchener Centre to the rest of the country so in a way. It's kind of a typical Canadian riding, if there is such a thing.

CTV: So, overall your thoughts are that the Liberals could still win this one and hold on to it, but it might be a much slimmer margin than last time?

I am less certain that the Liberals will win this time around, but I wouldn't be surprised if they squeaked through it.

Again, it all depends on the next remaining 18 days or so of the campaign. A lot can happen there, the French debates (Thursday), or English debates coming around. So we'll see if those shake things up a little bit.

Campaigns have been known to to really affect and change and evolve rapidly in the last week or so, so we'll see what happens in the coming days, but if the Liberals lose, they most likely will lose it to the Conservatives.

Some answers have been edited for length and/or clarity.