Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Has Harper passed the point of no return?

I'd have been the last one to predict that the census would be the issue that destroys Harper's career as Prime Minister. But it's become a contender for the role. Look at what Jeffery Simpson has to say about the issue:
It’s been a fine summer for Canadian democracy.

No, not parliamentary democracy, since Parliament was not in session and the who’s up/who’s down of parliamentary punditry/polling is of even less relevance and interest in summer than the rest of the year. No, it’s been a fine summer because civic society overwhelmingly rose up against the assault on reason and the ephemeral triumph of ideology over fact reflected in the Harper government’s destruction of Statistics Canada’s long-form census.

The Harper government – that is, the Prime Minister and his entourage – tried to slip a fast one past Canadians. It announced the end of the long form in the dead of summer, on a Friday to boot, as a sop to their far-right core constituency.

They must have figured no one would be paying attention, so they could take out their dislike of Statistics Canada when no one was looking – a dislike grounded in their blinkered belief that the agency collects facts that are then used by pressure groups, often of the social activist variety, that want more and bigger government.

Canadian civic society immediately smelled a rat. At last count – the figures are provided by the redoubtable retired professor William Stanbury – more than 200 groups and institutions publicly oppose the Harper policy, while three support it.

The three are fringe, right-wing institutions: the Fraser Institute, the Canadian Taxpayers Federation and the National Citizens Coalition, the little organization for which Stephen Harper himself once toiled in a Calgary office of two people (himself and a secretary). There’ve been a few supportive, far-right media shills, of course. But that’s been it.

Notably absent from that list, as noted in a previous post, are organizations like the C.D. Howe Institute (hardly a paragon of radical leftist thought, and a pretty significant opinion maker). And what about the fundamentalist churches? The new immigrants that Harper is so keen to court? Recovering from this might not be so easy. And that isn't even considering the other issues the Cons face. The polls are already turning against them, despite the fact that it's summer and people aren't as quick to follow politics right now:
Neck and neck. Stephen Harper’s Conservatives and Michael Ignateiff’s Liberals are in a virtual dead heat in a new national opinion poll, confirming the narrowing lead and substantive drop of the Tories first revealed last week.

This is now provoking a debate between pollsters as to the timing of the next election. One says it’s not going to happen; the other says it could be coming soon.

First, the latest poll by Ipsos Reid for Postmedia News and Global Television has the Conservatives with 34 per cent support compared to 31 per cent for the Liberals – within the margin of error. The NDP are polling at 15 per cent; the Green Party and the Bloc Quebecois are both at 9 per cent.

Last week, EKOS pollster Frank Graves found the Tories had dropped 10 points in less than a month, narrowing the gap between themselves and the opposition Liberals – 29.7 per cent for the Tories compared to 28.5 per cent for the Grits.

While Mr. Graves suggested the controversy over the government’s decision to scrap the compulsory long-form census was the reason for the Tory slide, Ipsos pollster John Wright sees it differently.

He attributes the narrowing of the gap to the brouhaha over the G20 summit in Toronto. His numbers show that in Ontario, the Liberals and Conservatives are in a statistical tie – 35 per cent and 36 per cent respectively. The Liberals have also gained ground nationally, suggesting Mr. Ignatieff’s bus tour is helping.

From here. And that's not even mentioning the war:

Most Canadians don’t believe there will be victory in the war against the Taliban in Afghanistan, according to a new online survey.

The Angus Reid Public Opinion poll also shows that a majority of Canadians – 53 per cent – do not support the war and 43 per cent believe that Canada made a mistake sending in troops.

While the finding bolsters Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s resolve to end the mission in July 2011, there is still uncertainty as to Canada’s future role. The Owen Sound Sun Times reports that Defence Minister Peter MacKay is “strongly suggesting” his government is open to extending the mission beyond the date passed by the House of Commons.

Mr. MacKay is quoted as saying that it’s “all very interesting” that Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff and his foreign affairs critic Bob Rae have both made “comments recently about training and extending the mission.” However, later in the article, Mr. MacKay says his government will respect the parliamentary motion.

Yeah, I'd say the Cons are in deep trouble. Regardless of when the next election happens, it's unlikely to go well for them.

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