Mike Sharma is a frontline worker who feels left behind by the Liberals’ COVID-19 response despite the risks he’s taken, and continues to take, by going to work during the pandemic.
“It hasn’t been good,” says Sharma, 29, a resident in the Scarborough-Rouge Park riding. “We’re constantly putting ourselves out there, working the extra hours, doing the most trying to help our society but we feel like the government isn’t doing their part in helping us.”
The federal election is Sept. 20 and if the polls are any indication, it will be close. According to Nanos Research, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and the Liberal Party’s lead going into voting day is as little as .03 per cent over Erin O’Toole’s Conservative Party. Jagmeet Singh and the NDP come in third.
With 102,275 residents, the Scarborough-Rouge Park riding in eastern Scarborough has been won by the Liberal Gary Anandasangaree ever since it was formed in 2015. in 2019 he took 62.2 per cent of the seats.
However, with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the Liberals’ COVID-19 response may cost them supporters.
“We’re not getting any support for ourselves in terms of paid sick leaves and the other things that go down the chain,” Sharma says.
The federal government has authority over Crown corporations like Canada Post, or nationwide programs like The Canadian Emergency Response Benefit (CERB). Paid sick leave, or lack thereof, falls to the provincial. But misplaced blame due to unpopular provincial policies, in addition to negative receptions of Liberals’ actual policies, could make a difference in Scaborough-Rouge Park.
Sharma isn’t alone. Dissent is growing on social media.
Student and Scarborough-Rouge Park resident Omar Blake, 24, has a more positive review of the Liberal Party’s response to COVID-19, but says it wasn’t perfect.
“It started off good in the beginning and I think we had the pandemic under control,” Blake says. “But key mistakes were made. Allowing kids to go back to school was a big one.”
While Blake has some issues with the Liberals’ COVID-19 response, he is unlikely to change his vote given the “once-in-a-lifetime” nature of the pandemic.
“They could have done better,” Blake says. “At the same time, the [pandemic] is unprecedented. It’s hard to say what anyone else would have done during these times.”
According to York University professor Greg Albo, an expert in Canadian politics and social democracy, the Liberal Party’s policies have been generally well received, and recent COVID-19 outbreaks in provinces controlled by the Conservative Party such as Alberta has strengthened that belief.
“For most voters, the availability of vaccines to control COVID-19 and the comparative success in managing the pandemic registers as a plus for the Liberals,” Albo says. “As well, the COVID-19 crisis in the Prairie provinces governed by very vocal Conservative premiers also is providing a bump to the Liberals.”
CERB, the lockdowns, mandatory masking, and social distancing measures are some of the policies implemented by the Liberal Party during the pandemic that might not have been carried out in Canada under different leadership.
However, these policies may not be enough for some Liberal Party supporters who have grown disillusioned over the course of the pandemic.
“Many won’t be budged from their assessment of the many major failings of Liberal policies around PPE provisioning, the lack of national coordination, and the gutting of Public Health Canada,” Albo says.
Other voters are also questioning the government’s motivations in calling an election during the pandemic.
If more voters feel like Sharma, it could signal a turning of the tides in Scaborough-Rouge Park.
“Is the Government looking out for my benefits?” Sharma asks. “My mental health? My perspective of having to slave away?”
His answer is an emphatic no.