Election 2021: What to watch for in the Kitchener South-Hespeler riding

The federal election is less than two weeks away and the campaign trail is heating up.

Voters will head to the polls on Sept. 20.

Andrea Perrella, a political science professor at Wilfrid Laurier University, joined CTV Kitchener to break down the stories to watch in the Kitchener South-Hespeler riding.

CTV Kitchener: Last week we talked about the riding of Kitchener Centre. A lot has happened since this discussion. Last week, you said if the Liberals could hang on it would be by a really thin margin, you were leaning Conservative. So just quickly, your thoughts on what's happening there now?

Andrea Perrella: Well now a whole lot of Liberal voters have to rethink where they're going to cast their ballot. Now they may just choose not to turn up at all, and there even be a good number that will continue to vote for Raj Saini, because either they support him or, it may be hard to believe, they may not be aware of all that's been happening. Not everybody watches the news as attentively or they're not necessarily news junkies or political junkies like maybe we are, so there's a possibility of that.

But I imagine that a lot of them will rethink their vote. Some may go to the Conservatives, some to the NDP, and I'm looking at the Green Party. The Green Party is polling very well in Kitchener Centre. They did well last election and you never know, they may pull off a victory this time around.

There's not a far distance between those who support the liberal party and those who support the Green Party, the distance is not so great. Had it been a Conservative candidate or a Conservative MP who was in the same situation, then I can see a lot of Conservative votes maybe scattering a bit more widely, maybe even going to the Liberals. But we're talking Liberal votes who tend to occupy the center, so they may go a little to the left, maybe a little to the right, but I'm keeping an eye on the Green Party. I think Mike Morrice is going to be looking at fetching some of those votes.

CTV: This week we want to talk about Kitchener South-Hespeler. This is another riding where the Liberals are having trouble. Marwan Tabbara was removed from caucus and of course he's still in court for some charges. Now, despite his removal from the party, does this hurt the Liberals chances of electing a new MP here in Kitchener South-Hespeler?

Perrella: Well, number one, the Liberal brand has suffered some damage nationally over the last mandate, so that's one kink in its iron. But also regionally, Kitchener Centre and Kitchener South-Hespeler, there have been some local stories that further damaged the Liberal brand. And so I'm not exactly sure where this riding is headed.

It's an interesting seat because part of it is in Kitchener, part of it is in Cambridge, and I'm not too sure if there's a lot of political coherence. Kitchener tends to lean more to the Liberal Party and Hespeler, South Hespeler, Cambridge tends to lean more towards the Conservative Party. That was true if you look at the poll by poll results, it was true in 2015, it was also true in 2019, although the votes were a little bit more equal. So we may see a tilt, once again. We may see the Cambridge side tilt more heavily toward the Conservative and we may see the Liberal vote question. There is Liberal candidate, but as I said the Liberal brand has suffered some damage both nationally and especially locally, so there may not be a lot of enthusiastic Liberal voters and they may be looking to park their ballots somewhere or not turn up at all.

CTV: It does feel like it's a bit of a neglected riding. I haven't seen any of the leaders come in there or any well-known names with the party come in there and make a push with their candidate. Does that have an impact at all in your mind?

Perrella: In these urban ridings, it's very difficult for a leader to have a major event at every seat. Now, this is not Toronto. We don’t have a large number of seats. But when leaders come to Waterloo Region, they probably perceive the whole region as a collection of seats. So they bring in candidates from the adjacent constituencies. That may have happened even in Cambridge. When Trudeau was here, he wasn't just focusing on Cambridge, he was also rallying support for his Liberal candidates around the region.

So I'm not too sure how neglected it is in terms of actually having an event in the boundaries of the riding, but the region is itself, I don't think neglected. I think there's a lot of hot seats here. Kitchener South-Hespeler is not a seat I would right now declare one way or another. It could go overwhelming one way, but like I said, it does split between two cities that tend to vote in two different directions. It's an interesting seat to watch, it's an interesting riding to fight for, and the same for Kitchener Centre now.

So I can see the parties interested in the region. But I can also see them trying to battle other grounds. There are other areas in the country where their energies can be used to garner more support. It all depends, where on the map do they see the most chances of gains, and that's where they'll spend their time and money.

Some questions and answers have been edited for length and clarity.