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Sunday, March 25, 2007

Harper's Giveaway Budget Will Not a Majority Government Make

I see the MSM poll interpreters and headline writers are up to their tricks again. Space, time and depth of analysis are all limited so the consequences are misleading and shallow reportage. The Strategic Counsel poll for the Globe and Mail and CTV on post budget results is a case in point. It was conducted over the 2 days immediately following the Harper Budget and put in the context of…did the Budget give Harper enough to call (and win???) an election?

Of course the MSM media wants an election because it is good copy, good for business and, let’s face it, elections are good sport for MSM too! The electorate on the other hand is not supportive of a spring election and the opposition parties save and perhaps except for Jack Layton, are not keen to go now either. We do not need a federal election right now, especially if Quebec is going to become volatile again with its own election results coming tomorrow.

Nevertheless, based on post budget polling, the MSM media screams breathless headlines that Harper is approaching “majority territory” with 40% and a commanding lead on the Liberals. This is of course, based on data collected during a total news blitz coverage on the Budget that was a giveaway to provinces where 2/3 of the population live. What else would you expect but a bounce in the first 2 days afterwards?

It was also polling data collected before Harper insulted the country with his Dion likes the Taliban more than our soldiers bleating, before Defense Minister O’Connor’s expose about “misleading of Parliament” (a euphemism for lying) and the disclosure of damaging documents that his Minister of Public Safety Stockwell Day electoral activities may have breached the Criminal Code and Harper’s utterances. This past week Harper also said he would not acknowledge a separatists government if that was the choice of Quebecers…as if he has such a choice in a democracy. This all happened last week to but after the polling data was collected so the context of the MSM presentation of the poll results from the Cons Budget is lacking if we are to be kind about it.

Let’s look at some serious analysis of the Strategic Counsel post-budget poll results anyway. First the Budget gave the Cons a bounce (39% positive and 21% negative), no doubt that would be the result given it was the largest spending budget in the history of the country and a cash giveaway akin to game show prize winnings in Quebec. Underlying this fact was that an equal number of Canadians were “neutral” on the budget. Hum! Maybe the 38% of citizens who were neutral wanted to also think about it and understand it before they jumped to conclusions.

I wonder where they have they evolved in their thinking and in their opinions now that the implications of this budget are better understood. It is now seen in a cynical light to be mostly a budget about political positioning and less about sound economic planning.

A full 55% of Canadians and 67% of Harper’s western base saw the budget as a gift to Quebec. Ironically only 37% of Quebecer saw it that way and 34% of them are “undecided” but, get this, 51% of Quebecers do not yet believe they have gotten “their fair share” from the Budget. This is not a winning formula for nation building Prime Minister Harper. Thanks a lot!

Besides we know the budget is not the ballot box question in any pending federal election anyway – the environment is. So why does the MSM think the budget matters as a value driver as to how people will actually vote when the question will be real? Well the poll asked an environment question too. I did not see a single report on that aspect of the poll.

Well gentle reader – here is some more context for you about what this poll may be telling us. When asked if “Canadians were more concerned about the environment than the Harper government” a full 67% said yes, indicating the Cons have not achieved lift-off velocity on the main issue in he country and the one that will likely decide the next federal election. Even more interesting is that in Quebec and Ontario, where Harper is and has to go to get votes for a majority government, they say he “does not get it” about the environment at the 72% and 70% levels respectively. Ouch!

Harper resonated on the tax surcharge on gas guzzlers with 68% support and only 28% against; the West, by the way, was slightly more supportive than the national averages. But that was before we knew he exempted trucks and was actually playing market maker with a poorly thought out policy that preferred only selected manufacturers but was quickly “fixed” to also include cars made in Flaherty’s neck of the woods.

The big sleeper and potentially the most explosive finding out of this survey got absolutely no coverage in the MSM. It was the results of the question of “Should the federal government be involved in areas of provincial jurisdiction?” A whopping 67% agreed. Even 51% of Quebecers agreed and even more interesting was that 72% of the West was on side with this proposition. The Premiers will not be amused and the Prime Minister will be bemused. Will it embolden Harper to become more Liberal than Trudeau in occupying provincial political territory and jurisdiction? Time will tell!

So we should not get all excited from the MSM headlines and stories coming out of this poll that it might trigger an unwanted election. It has much more substance than the reporting but it tells us that nothing has been decided and no trends have been identified…yet. One thing is for sure though, these are going to be exciting and unnerving times in this quite little part of the universe we call Canada.