Dramatic downturn in the number of Canadians identifying with Harper government
By Patrick Vaillancourt, News Editor
A poll conducted annually and presented to a Conservative-friendly conference is raising a number of alarms within government circles.
The poll, conducted by Carleton University professor André Turcotte and presented to the Manning Centre shows that Canadians are jumping off the Conservative bandwagon in key battleground provinces, including British Columbia and Ontario.
Turcotte told the conference attendees on February 28 that the state of conservatism in Canada is “[headed] in the wrong direction.”
In British Columbia, the number of people who identified as being Conservative fell 13 percentage points, from 33 per cent to 20 per cent. A similar decline took place in Ontario, where the numbers dipped to 25 per cent—a 10-point decline from last year’s result.
This is particularly damaging for the Harper government, which has invested so much time and money attempting to build up a support base in these provinces, especially in the more diverse urban communities and in cities and towns with a high concentration of new immigrant voters.
Turcotte also emphasized to conference attendees that the news gets worse for the governing Conservatives when examining Canadians’ attitudes on which of the federal political parties handle some of the key issues. On almost all of the issues studied, Stephen Harper’s Conservatives ranked either as good as the Liberal Party under Justin Trudeau, or well-below the other political parties.
For example, on the management of the economy, the voters seem to be as confident with the Conservatives as they are with the Liberals.
Other issues, such as health care and unemployment, show the Conservatives trailing the Liberals. On the management of the environment, the Conservatives trail the Liberals, NDP, and the Green Party.
The Conservative brand has been damaged some in the last year, with the revelation of expense scandals in the Senate, the release of damning evidence indicating that the Conservatives engaged in a widespread voter suppression campaign in the last federal election, and environmental disasters. The poll also found that 93 per cent either “somewhat support” or “strongly support” closer inspection of “electoral wrongdoings,” as well as transparency on spending of public funds. Similarly, 92 per cent either “somewhat support” or “strongly support” greatly accountability to caucuses.
The Manning Centre is a conservative think-tank headed by former Reform Party leader Preston Manning. The Reform Party was the Western Canadian offshoot which merged with the Progressive Conservative Party in 2004 to create today’s Conservative Party of Canada.