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RSR ROBBINS Research - Canada Politics September 25, 2006
  Sep 25, 2006

This is a random sample digit dialing poll; the aggregate number of respondents is 1,145 between September 18-24, 2006. This poll features a margin of error of 2.95%, 19 times out of 20 (as conducted) and 97% competency/confidence. The data collected in this poll was sponsored in part by Jim Van Rassel of New Trend Optical in Port Coquitlam, British Columbia. (604)-942-9300

Question #1
I am going to provide you with five issues. I would ask that you focus on which of these subject matters is most important to you, relative to the other choices offered, and indicate which, if any, is the most important to you.
Changing the culture of entitlement in Ottawa by passing accountability legislation and senate reforms    19 %
Making changes to plans for Canada’s military operation in Afghanistan to ensure that our men and women are not there for any extended period of time    12.5 %
Ensuring our streets are safe by making laws tougher on people who use guns    23.5 %
Developing a plan for a sustainable environment in Canada including compliance with the Kyoto Accord    15 %
Cutting taxes for small business and lower and middle income earners in Canada-    30 %
Question #2
Which of the following candidates for Liberal party leadership do you favour the most?
Bob Rae    34 %
Michael Ignatieff    25 %
Stephane Dion    16 %
Gerard Kennedy    26 %
I don't care about the Liberal leadership race    34 %
Don't Know/Not Following    52 %
Question #3
According to news sources, the cost of evacuating Lebanese Canadians during the Israel-Lebanese conflict is estimated at upwards of 100 million dollars. One half of those evacuated have returned to Lebanon. In your opinion should those evacuated be made to pay the costs?
Yes    32.5 %
No    67.5 %
Question #4
In the United States those citizens with dual citizenships are compelled by US law to file income tax returns in the United States in order to retain citizenship in that country. Should Canada invoke similar laws?
Yes    84 %
No    16 %
Question #5
Do you-regularly?
read the Province newspaper    27.5 %
read the Vancouver Sun newspaper    21.5 %
read the Globe and Mail newspaper    04 %
read the National Post newspaper    04 %
listen to CKNW talk radio    17 %
watch CanWest Global news    20 %
watch CTV news    17 %
watch CBC news    15 %
Question #6
Do your currently support Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s government enough that you would vote for the Conservative party in a general federal election?
Yes    41.5 %
No    54 %
Question #7
Do you currently support Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s government enough that you would hope that your vote would help them to achieve a majority government in a general federal election?
Yes    38 %
No    58 %
Facts and Inferences: BC respondents in this ROBBINS poll find that cutting taxes to small business, and lower and middle income earners to be most important. The second most important issue is “safe streets and tougher laws on people who use illegal guns”, followed by “accountability legislation”, and ‘sustainable environment under Kyoto’. The least important issue to British Columbians is “making changes to Canada’s military operation in Afghanistan”.
86% of all respondents in this poll either “don’t care” about the federal leadership race, or “don’t know” or ‘aren’t following the contest’. Of those who are, Bob Rae is most popular, Gerard Kennedy second, Michael Ignatieff third, and Stephan Dion fourth. With respondents who do not always vote factored out of all categories, the number of respondents is slightly over 20%, consistent with numbers published by Strategic counsel earlier in the week.
Less than one third of respondents are of the opinion that Lebanese Canadians evacuated from Lebanon during the Israel Lebanese conflict should reimburse the Canadian government for the costs of the evacuation. A super majority of respondents are of the opinion that Canada should invoke similar laws to the United States relating to filing income tax returns and citizenship.
The highest number of respondents in this poll regularly read the Province newspaper. There are only a minority of respondents who appear to use more than one of these news sources.
Commentary-This poll confirms that political parties in this country require better independent polling. Currently, political issues at the federal level are many, varied, and complex, with corresponding public opinion changing dramatically. The respondents in this poll, particularly those who indicated they regularly vote, are paying attention. Afghanistan is very riveting news, but changes to government policy relating to the war are at the bottom of British Columbians concerns. At the top is income tax relief for small business, lower and middle earners, tougher laws for criminals who use guns here in Canada, and accountability in government. These three issues are as dry as toast but they apparently matter to British Columbians.
British Columbians in this poll are not about clawing back evacuation costs from Lebanese Canadians although a conspicuous number of respondents who indicated that tax relief was most important (Q#1), also supported collecting these costs from evacuees. There were a number of respondents who indicated “No” to cost collection for the simple reason that they believed collecting the money would be impossible, and not because they supported the Lebanese evacuees per se. This practical sentiment is underscored somewhat by the huge number of respondents who believe income tax filings should be directly linked to citizenship (as it is in the United States). British Columbians want their dollars handled more carefully. Respondents worry less about ‘technicalities’ and more about substantive accountability, like keeping promises and “not wasting” taxpayer’s money.
There is a noticeable connection between readers, listeners, and watchers of news in British Columbia and those who have indicated that they vote in provincial and federal elections. Supporters of Prime Minister Harper and his Conservative party are reading the Province newspaper in significant numbers. Some respondents claim that the Province ‘format’ is “simpler” than the Vancouver Sun and that is why they choose it. The Vancouver Sun is a complete and excellent newspaper; however it may be too much for many of our busy respondents, while the smaller daily and weekly rags don’t provide quite enough or are not as interesting as they could be. News drives the ROBBINS polling agenda. It is the soundest basis from which to obtain worthwhile practical public opinion in terms of their perceptions on issues. Academic polling (more scientific) is important, however too many questions that their researchers ask determine more what respondents DON’T KNOW about the issues rather than the public’s general perception on those issues. The ROBBINS polling news niche is estimated to influence between 10-15% of ‘swing’ voters in the province. We believe we are able to determine most elections as a consequence.
Stephen Harper has had a rush of converts to his Conservative party in this ROBBINS poll. Many of these converts provide their support on the basis of the current status his party enjoys in the House of Commons, and are not yet prepared to support a Conservative majority. The basic expression of additional support identified, particularly from male respondents in the lower mainland suggests that they did not (or do not) like Stephen Harper, “but they have to admit he is doing a very good job” or “I admit I am surprised at how well he is doing under a lot of pressure”. These are voters who the Liberals previously had convinced that Stephen Harper was going to ‘go off’ on a right wing agenda. The Prime Minister’s political opponents should read and re-read that simple message a number of times, because we are hearing it more and more often since August.
Insight-It is difficult to poll some issues in the abstract. War is one of these. Respondents are reluctant to endorse something that might mean the end of the life of one of its citizens. To ask if you do or do not support a war cannot produce accurate polling outcomes without making other comparisons or choices available to respondents. It may well be that the country is divided on the war, but in terms of Canada removing itself from the war earlier this poll reveals this discussion to be less relevant than many expect. British Columbians like most Canadians are a practical lot, and understand that it is difficult to get sanctimonious against war when we are permitting the killing of one another on our own streets. For this reason, coupled with an incredibly moving news report of the mother of a Canadian soldier killed in Afghanistan, (who despite this supported the war effort), the rally in support of troops in Ottawa, and a visit from the President of Afghanistan, changing policy on Canada’s involvement in Afghanistan is less important to British Columbians because they have now accepted it will be around for awhile.
There is no appetite amongst citizens for waste or corruption in government. The mainstream is attempting to promote the Liberal leadership contest, however in this our second consecutive ROBBINS poll on the matter; it is only now gaining the ROI on news/time investment. The Liberal party has provoked a residual discontent amongst many respondents who once believed that Stephen Harper really was ‘dangerous’, when it is obvious to them now that he is not.
Liberal leadership contender Michael Ignatieff needs male voters to be successful in a federal general election. Mr. Ignatieff has impressive credentials, but so do his opponents in the leadership run and we don’t believe he is ready to take enough centre right male voters from Stephen Harper to help re-build the Liberal party to a national standard of over 40% nation wide support.
Gerard Kennedy cannot speak French very well but has a reasonable policy for Greening Canada, and could win if he could remedy the bilingual problem. British Columbians don’t want a francophone PM anytime soon by the looks of Stephane Dion’s totals, notwithstanding Mr. Dion’s impressive work. It will be easier for Bob Rae to cut into New Democrat numbers than for Michael Ignatieff to cut into Conservative numbers in our estimation. The Liberal leadership winner ought to be Bob Rae. Gerard Kennedy will want ‘to put him over’ before Stephan Dion does. Liberals are re-building and should look toward the New Democrats for most of their gains.
The conduct of a few Lebanese Canadian evacuees was disgraceful and a sign of inordinate ingratitude, but British Columbians really can’t see collecting costs from them even if the large numbers of them have returned home to Lebanon. Many of these foreigners seem totally unawares of our Canadian “way”. The Conservative government should consider the net $50 million cost an advance to the Lebanese government in terms of future foreign aid commitments.
All the media banter will not change what we hear on the telephone, and Conservative and New Democrat supporters have a lot to say about immigration reforms. How about the middle age woman in Maple Ridge whose father “lived and died” a union supporter, who loved and admired Pierre Trudeau, but wondered aloud why her daughter’s “Scottish boyfriend could not get into Canada while apparently everyone else can (including erstwhile Canadians from Lebanon). Jack Layton needs to understand that many rural and semi-rural New Democrats get along very well with Reform Conservatives. Toronto may have a lot of voters but the rest of Canada doesn’t necessarily think like Toronto, Vancouver or Montreal, and political missteps and mistakes that seem to follow those urban centres affirm this thinking.
(64%) of Stephen Harper supporters in this poll are male. This is significant. This Prime Minister has a mandate to reduce monies to special interest groups and this makes Canadians happy. We believe it makes most Canadian men happy. Resource allocation to affirmative action groups should be very seriously considered and seriously curtailed. Canadian men hunker down and produce, and a fraction of Canadian women receive the largesse. Some of these payments are a must, but many are political in nature only. This ‘political payola habit’ often starts at the local government level and degenerates from there up the political food chain. Previous Liberal governments gave special consideration to minority groups and often neglected the quiet majority of the country, largely because these groups vote Liberal. ROBBINS asserts that the integrity of the country should not be compromised for the benefit of political longevity supported by minority groups. Canadians living in the north and interior and suburbs of British Columbia do not want to buy into the Liberal “values” sermon any further. Most of these are impressed by the Prime Minister’s pragmatic approach.
(I wish the Liberal government had shown as much concern for me when BC, Liberal Attorney General Ujjal Dosanjh was defrauding me through ‘Made in Canada’ torture out of my publishing business of millions of dollars-maybe if my name was Glen Robbinsararafat I might have received justice and compensation).
Bob Rae needs to think more deeply and re-do his homework on Canada’s history in Afghanistan and frame a policy that is realistic, not the impractical rhetoric about reconstruction and re-building democratic institutions only that some on the centre left are advocating. (What is someone to do while they are constructing a law court for mediation to be headed by Afghan women, hit a Taliban insurgent with his/her hammer if attacked?). Rae will not be compromised on the tax cuts to lower income and small business (there is no appetite or sympathy for big business in BC), can take a tougher stance on crime, and should consider co-opting part of Gerard Kennedy’s platform on the environment (before Conservative Environment minister Ambrose makes her announcement). Frankly, Mr. Rae should phone Gerard Kennedy and make a deal now, effectively neutralizing Dion’s influence, as the latter and Mr. Ignatieff are an odd political couple).
Stephen Harper is managing his minority government near perfectly, but will have to come to the table with a home run on the environment if he wants to remain over 40% in this province, because there are still a few soft supporters who may still be looking for an excuse to abandon him. The trial balloon recently floated with respect to automobile manufacturers and emissions is getting some traction and will really put the squeeze on those manufacturers and Buzz Hargrove’s friends in the Liberal party of Canada.
Can the Conservative party develop a serious environmental strategy for the country, without trampling all over their base, or taxing the heck out of citizens who, according to this poll of British Columbians, (many of whom are paying over 60% of their net incomes to mortgage payments), are sick of being taxed to death? If PM Harper can move on the ROBBINS agenda before his (soon to be) opponent Bob Rae, on the environment and tax cuts in the last week of September and October, he will control the policy agenda through to mid-October and beyond.

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