POLITICS

Political Traction: New Pope gets Canada's attention

03/19/2013 01:34 EDT | Updated 05/18/2013 05:12 EDT
Jaime Watt joins CBC News Networks' Power & Politics host Evan Solomon each week to look at how issues making waves in Ottawa resonate with Canadian.

Monitoring the House of Commons' question period, mainstream media and the conversation on social media, Watt and his team at Navigator Ltd. determine which issues gained the most attention in official Ottawa, and then measure how much traction those issues managed to find with Canadians outside the nation's capital.

This week: The new Pope is making big waves across Canada.

The election of Pope Francis was the week's top story inside Ottawa and across the country.

"Canadians are interested in his story — the story of a more austere papacy," Watt told Power & Politics guest host Terry Milewski on Monday.

Francis made history by becoming the first Pope from the Americas. Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergogli, who hails from Argentina, wasn't a frontrunner to become Pope, and as a result, the element of surprise surrounding Bergoglio's election as Pope generated major traction, according to Watt.

To put the Pope's election in context, Watt compared the story to U.S. President Barack Obama's inauguration. He found that more Canadians tuned in to Obama's inaugural address, but the election of Pope Francis received only slightly less attention.

The new Pope will officially be inaugurated at the Vatican on Tuesday. But Watt predicts that Canada's interest in Pope Francis will fade quickly and he doesn't expect the new Catholic leader will have a presence on the Traction radar next week.

Liberals lose out after Garneau's departure

Former Liberal leadersrhip hopeful Marc Garneau is now rooting for team Trudeau. Garneau threw his support behind Justin Trudeau after dropping out of the race last week.

Watt believes the Liberal leadership race won't gain steam in its final weeks without Garneau rivaling Trudeau. The federal Liberal party crowns its next leader on April 14.

"This is their [the Liberal party's] chance to get attention, and I don't think they're going to have that attention with Garneau leaving."

Watt points to the Ontario Liberal leadership race as a success, in the sense that Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne had a tough and lasting competitor in leadership candidate Sandra Pupatello.

"I think Garneau played a smart card for himself, but I think for the party... I don't think it's so good."

Penashue's resignation puts scandal to bed

Peter Penashue stepped down as a Conservative MP and intergovernmental affairs minister last week. CBC has since learned his campaign accepted ineligible and illegal campaign contributions totaling nearly $30,000 during the last election.

Penashue's resignation generated the least amount of traction in Ottawa and across the country. If Penahsue didn't step down in the midst of controversy, Canadians would have tuned into this story in much bigger numbers, according to Watt.

"The way to cauterize these issues, the way to put them to bed... is a resignation. It's a very smart move," Watt said. "He [Penashue] has taken the air out of the issue."