Poll finds Canadians in an upbeat mood

But their feelings do not translate into support for the Conservatives

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by L. IAN MacDONALD
The Gazette, Monday, December 10, 2007

You'd never know it from the sound and fury of Parliament, but the country is in a remarkably good mood, and it has nothing to do with holiday cheer.

In a major year-end poll published in Policy Options magazine today, pollster Nik Nanos finds that two Canadians in three think the country is moving in the right direction and half of them think the already strong economy will improve even more next year. Moreover, Canadians see moderate improvement in federal-provincial relations, think Canada is playing a more important role in the world, and give the Harper government good marks on its overall performance.

By more than three to one, 66 to 20 per cent, Canadians think the country is moving in the right direction. And as Nanos observes: "This is one of the core measurements of any government. Governments that do poorly on this measure do so at their peril."

By another striking margin, 50 per cent to 20 per cent, Canadians think the economy will continue to improve in the next year.

And, in answer to the famous Ronald Reagan question - are you better off now than you were a year ago? - Canadians by a 2-1 margin, 30 per cent to 16 per cent, said they were. A majority saw no change.

The buoyant mood of the country is in striking contrast to the toxic atmosphere on Parliament Hill. But as Nanos says: "We shouldn't confuse the daily chatter of the political class and the noise of talk radio with the overall feelings of Canadians on the direction in which the country is heading."

The poll was conducted among 1,000 Canadians from November 6-8, the week after the Mulroney-Schreiber storm broke over Parliament Hill.

The fundamentals of a full-employment economy, and the purchasing power of a strong dollar, are clearly reflected in the attitudinal numbers in this poll, titled The Mood of Canada, which can be viewed at the website of the Institute for Research on Public Policy (www.irpp.org).

On two key areas of governance, federal-provincial relations and foreign policy, the country is also quite upbeat. About 60 per cent of Canadians see modest to significant improvement in federal-provincial relations.

The government's approval numbers on this file are strongest where it matters most - Quebec, where federal-provincial relations is a fundamental test of public policy. About 63 per cent of Quebecers, nearly two in three, see modest to strong improvement in relations between Quebec and Ottawa.

Says Nanos: "Quebecers are clearly giving Stephen Harper credit for delivering on the promise of 'open federalism' in his Quebec City speech of Dec. 19, 2005. Quebecers are likely crediting Harper with delivering on his promise to settle the fiscal imbalance between Ottawa and the provinces," with the November 2006 resolution recognizing the Québécois nation within a united Canada "as a bonus."

On Canada's role and standing in the world, Nanos notes "twice as many think Canada's reputation has improved as think it has not improved" (15 per cent to 7.6 per cent) and nearly four Canadians in five see modest to significant improvement.

And this, as Nanos notes "in spite of, and perhaps because of, Canada's mission in Afghanistan. In spite of its controversial nature, especially in Quebec, Canadians clearly think that, partly because of the Afghan mission, Canada is playing a larger role in the world."

Finally, by a 2-1 margin, 39 to 18 per cent, Canadians give the Harper government a positive as opposed to negative performance rating.

And here there's a dog that doesn't bark.

The positive mood of the country, and the government's strong approval rating, doesn't translate into voting intention. In most polls, including other Nanos polls, the Conservatives remain knocking on the door of a majority but are unable to cross the threshold of 40 per cent that marks the beginning of majority territory.

As Nanos observes: "They continue to hit a glass ceiling, suffering from a gender gap with women voters, while the Liberals benefit from the resilience of their party brand, particularly in Ontario. These are strong reasons for Harper to approach any election scenario with caution."

Indeed.

 
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