Canadians support budget, but with reservations
CTV.ca News Staff
Published Friday, January 30, 2009 9:26PM EST
A new poll suggests most Canadians are in favour of the federal budget -- but it's a lukewarm endorsement tinged with reservations over the political gamesmanship that played out in its creation.
A Strategic Counsel poll conducted for CTV News and The Globe and Mail asked for the impressions of Canadians who had heard, read, or seen something about the budget.
Sixty-two percent of respondents either said they had a favourable impression, or they were leaning in that direction. The other 38 per cent were on the negative side.
The poll was conducted over the two days immediately following the Jan. 27 budget presentation.
Broken down, of the 62 per cent of responses in favour, four per cent said they had a "very positive" impression. Thirty-six percent said they were simply "positive," while 22 per cent said they were "leaning positive."
Meanwhile, only four per cent of respondents said they had a "very negative" impression, while 20 per cent were negative and 14 per cent were "leaning negative."
Strategic Counsel partner Peter Donolo said the mixed response to the budget has roots in the Harper government's actions during the parliamentary crisis, which gave birth to the now-defunct opposition coalition and resulted in the prorogation of parliament.
"The prime minister's tactics in December helped win him a reprieve for his government," Donolo told CTV.ca. But the political gamesmanship left a sour taste in the mouths of some voters. "So here we are in the first month of that reprieve. (Liberal Leader Michael) Ignatieff talked about putting the government on a short leash - on probation - and this poll shows Canadians are doing the same thing."
A day after the budget was unveiled, Ignatieff indicated his party would support the document. But he added the Tories would be put on "probation" and must provide frequent progress reports.
"The Liberals made a smart political call in deciding to support the budget," said Donolo. "While there's not a lot of political gain for them in supporting the budget, the political fallout should they defeat the government over the budget would be considerable."
The poll also shows Canadians are divided on the Harper government's handling of the economic turmoil.
When asked whether they think the government has failed Canada on the economy, 51 per cent of respondents agreed. Forty-nine per cent disagreed with that statement.
Further, 72 per cent believe that the Tories were pushed into this budget.
"They believe Harper did this with a gun to his head," said Donolo. "They feel that if it hadn't been for pressure from the opposition, he would not have come forward with this budget."
Midas touch, in reverse
The poll also seems to provide further indication that, in Quebec, the tide in support is drifting further away from the Conservatives.
Recent surveys have shown the Liberals leading the Tories by as much as a margin of two-to-one in Quebec -- a province once central to Harper's strategy to cement his party on a national foundation.
Quebec was the only province where more people reacted negatively (53 per cent) to the budget than they reacted positively (47 per cent).
"In Quebec, the poll shows Harper has the reverse Midas touch," said Donolo. "We're looking at the results of the damage he did to himself in Quebec in December, through the tactics he used to define the coalition."
When the Liberal-NDP coalition was born, and propped up by the Bloc Quebecois, the Tories framed the union as unpatriotic. They reserved particular scorn for the inclusion of the "separatists" who threaten national unity. Hence, Quebeckers' more unfavourable reaction towards the budget lies in part because it has Harper's "fingerprints on it," said Donolo. "There's a greater sense of regional grievance in Quebec than we've seen in a while, versus Ottawa."
The Strategic Counsel surveyed 1,000 Canadians 18 years of age or older. The survey was conducted using the Research Now Web Perspectives online panel. Statistical margins of error are not applicable to online polls.