“The picture does not change what he’s done during his tenure as Prime Minister. It will not really change my vote,” said Michel Maginzi, a 22-year-old student from Sherbrooke University.
“The first time I saw it, I was shook,” he said, admittedly. “Because that’s not something you expect to see from the Prime Minister, who’s the head of the government, head of the country. It’s very offensive. It’s racist, and I understand how people get offended. But at the same time, I’m personally not offended by it.”
“They found it and decided to use it as a weapon,” Maginzi continued. “It’s something that he’s done in the past. People are just trying to destroy his image.”
In an interview with the CBC, CEO of Abacus Data, David Coletto said that Canadians between the ages of 18 to 35 could make up 37 per cent of the electorate this federal election.
But, most Canadian youths have a tendency not to vote. Though the youth vote in the last federal election went up by nearly 40 per cent since 2011, they were still the age group with the least amount of votes according to Elections Canada.
Daniel Weinstock, director of the McGill Institute for Health and Social Policy, said no matter the public youth opinion of Trudeau, it will probably not make much of a difference come election time.
“Younger demographics tend to have markedly lesser participation rates in elections,” said Weinstock. “That might have a dampening effect on whatever contribution the youth vote might make, to swing the election.”
“Right now it doesn’t seem like the effect is that huge,” he continued. Weinstock said the last poll he saw from a reputable source showed a small movement away from the Liberals, but within the margin of error, between 1 to 2 per cent.
“The news cycle doesn’t seem to be dominated by it anymore,” said Weinstock. “We’re still almost four weeks until the election I think that if it stays where it is now, I don’t see it as a major factor, more of an embarrassment than anything else.”
Weinstock does admit Trudeau’s numbers as a leader have taken a hit but said it could be due to any other of his scandals.
“SNC-Lavalin, the infamous India trip,” said Weinstock. “His personal leadership numbers have really gone down, but I think a lot of voters here are mature enough to distinguish between the leader and the party. They might say well, he may not have the best judgment, but as I compare platforms, I think the Liberal support, looking at the party as a whole, is not taking a hit.”
Jean-François D’Aoust, an assistant professor at McGill and a postdoctoral fellow at the Center for the Study of Democracy Citizenship reflects this sentiment. D’Aoust said the controversy may have affected Canadian votes, but in a minor way, and explained that this event was not the only affair to have tarnished his image.
“There were already other scandals, such as SNC-Lavalin, which damaged his integrity image,” said D’Aoust. “Other scandals damaged his First Nations-friendly image.”
Could vote splitting between NDP and Liberals lead to a Conservative win?
Weinstock said Canadian voters know how the political system works and that they know what happens when there is vote splitting, so he doubts it could happen. In 2011, ridings, where voters were split between the NDP and Liberals, saw how the Conservative won because of it.
”I think a lot of people might say, you know what, I’d be inclined to vote for the NDP if they were a bit higher in the polls,” said Weinstock. “But four weeks is a long time. A bandwagon effect could happen, but right now I’m not seeing it in the numbers.”
Collage by Alex Hutchins