Jaime Watt joins Power & Politics host Evan Solomon each week to look at how issues making waves in Ottawa resonate with Canadians.


Political Traction with Navigator's Jamie Watt appears weekly on Power & Politics. (CBC)

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 federal Liberal leadership race, the government's Office of Religious Freedom and anti-corruption raids in Quebec.

The Liberal leadership race, which saw its first candidate drop out Monday, has gained real traction for the first time with Marc Garneau's recent moves to draw out front-runner Justin Trudeau on policy issues. Candidates seem to be throwing a few punches but are also differentiating themselves from each other, and that is generating some interest in the race both in Ottawa and nationally. Watt says Garneau's challenge of Trudeau is injecting some contrast into the race, helping to make it more relevant.

Also on the Traction radar: the government's announcement last week of an ambassador for its long-promised Office of Religious Freedom. Watt says the government got some foreign policy advancement as well as some domestic benefit. The traction was higher in Ottawa but it did make an impression on the national conversation as well, although a lot of that talk was about the lack of details. Watt says for opposition politicians, the new office is a little tricky, because they are going to want to go after the same voters thenew office appeals to.

"They are going to have to be very careful of splitting the difference between attacking the way the government is approaching [the Office of Religious Freedom] but not attacking the importance of the cause and the work this office is going to do," Watt said.

Finally, the continuing corruption scandal in Quebec reached a new level on the Traction radar this week following more raids carried out on city hall last week and testimony by Nicolo Milioto, known as "Mr. Sidewalk" for the large number of municipal sidewalk contracts his company has received. Watt says the corruption issue is gaining national traction because it is starting to appear like a systemic problem in the province.

Absent from the Traction radar last week was the Senate issue, but Watt predicts that topic will come back as it begins to take on the appearance of a systemic issue as well.

Here are the numbers for the week of Feb. 17: