As the Senate scandal continues to garner national attention, Brandon-Souris candidates are finding the topic is also top-of-mind for local voters.
The Brandon Sun caught up with NDP candidate Cory Szczepanski who was going door-to-door in Brandon on Tuesday afternoon.
"I’d say by far, the No. 1 issue is the Senate," he said. "I mean whether or not it’s because it’s on TV every night or in the newspaper, but it seems to be a real hot-button issue with people and … they definitely are paying attention."
Szczepanski said another common theme on the doorsteps is that people want a "strong voice" in Ottawa.
"They don’t want somebody who is just going to agree with the government, they want somebody who is going to stand up and be a voice for Westman," he said.
Meanwhile, Liberal candidate Rolf Dinsdale was campaigning in the Glenboro area. He said the Senate scandal and the local Conservative nomination controversy are topics that often come up with constituents.
"Lots of questions about the local nomination, that still hasn’t gone away," he said. "For informed voters, they’re pretty disappointed with the Harper government."
Dinsdale said other issues include accountability, economy and jobs.
"A lot of the people that haven’t been voting seem supportive of the Liberals, so we’re very encouraged," he said.
Conservative candidate Larry Maguire was in the southern part of the riding Tuesday, visiting Glenboro, Ninette and Cartwright.
"The Senate issue is on people’s minds … and I’m saying ‘fix it or scrap it’," Maguire said. "And they’re agreeing with me on that … that’s what I’m hearing at the door and I certainly feel strongly about that."
Another major issue Maguire says he is hearing from voters is infrastructure.
"We want to work with municipalities and the City of Brandon to get a lot of these projects on the go, and … help them get into the Building Canada fund once we get to that stage," he said.
There’s also concern about jobs and skills training, Maguire said, adding people in the farming community are excited about the trade agreement with Europe.
Green Party candidate David Neufeld could not be reached for comment Tuesday.
Meir Serfaty, professor and chair of the political science department at Brandon University, said the Senate scandal will definitely affect voters in Brandon-Souris.
"Even before the scandal there was already a lot of talk that maybe the time is getting right for a change here," he said. "I’m not suggesting that will occur, but certainly this is only going to add more fuel to the fire and make things more interesting."
Serfaty said what is fascinating about the Brandon-Souris riding is the fact that the party that would normally stand a chance of replacing the Conservatives would be the NDP, the official opposition.
"Brandon-Souris is far too Conservative to give a vote to the NDP that would propel them to winning the seat here," he said. "So obviously the most clear vote against the government would be the Liberals here, but they have a long way to go."
Serfaty said Canadians are generally in a "feisty mood," and there’s not the kind of political party loyalty that there used to be.
"I think people are getting a little upset about what happened here in Brandon, in terms of the nomination of the Conservatives, of course, and also very much nationally," he said. "So it could become the perfect storm, that and Justin Trudeau’s newfound popularity seems to kind of be telling us that perhaps there may be a surprise here."
Will the Senate scandal impact the Brandon-Souris byelection?
The Canadian Senate scandal continues to dominate national headlines, as Conservative Sen. Mike Duffy delivered more bombshell allegations.
Duffy claims the Conservative Party gave him not one, but two cheques to cover his disputed expenses and legal fees.
Debate continued Tuesday on motions calling for the suspensions of senators Duffy, Patrick Brazeau and Pamela Wallin, who are at the centre of the ongoing expenses scandal.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper has been hammered with questions in question period about how much he knew of the deal worked out between Duffy and his former chief of staff Nigel Wright.
With the Brandon-Souris byelection less than a month away, the Brandon Sun went out to speak with residents of the riding to ask:
Will the current scandal in the Canadian Senate have an impact on the upcoming Brandon-Souris byelection?
"I do. The scandal is not helping the Harper government," she said. "My opinion of that is (the senators) should have been fired. Any other job if you were caught being dishonest, I think you would be dismissed immediately … I think a lot of people would probably say the same thing."
"Not really … I’m more concerned with what happened with Chris Kennedy," he said, referring to the controversial Conservative nomination process. "I think we need to see something new in Brandon-Souris. I’m not sure if I’m going to vote, but I would go for Liberals."
"I think it’ll change people’s votes. Yeah, I really do, at least I’m changing mine," she said. "I just think the Harper government needs to pick up its socks and change its ways."
"I think so … That’s overshadowed everything." he said. "They shouldn’t abolish (the Senate), but they should sure change it."
"It doesn’t sound very good for the Conservative party, along with the things that went on in Brandon with their candidate (nomination)," she said. "That’s the main thing that’s deciding my vote."
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition October 30, 2013