Thursday, July 19, 2007

Stephen Harper is not a leader

Maybe he was just projecting with all those radio and tv ads, overcompensating just a little bit. Seems a likely conclusion to draw from the new Strategic Consel poll dissected at length in today’s Globe.

They go into all kinds of nitty-gritty but the headline really sums it all up: Harper failing to win over country, Poll puts Liberals, Tories in dead heat.

I’d like to welcome my friends at the Globe to the party, because I’ve been saying for some time that the poor Conservative numbers and their inability to grow their support even a smidgen from the last election, despite all the advantages of incumbency and billions in taxpayer dollars to bribe voters with, is a massive failure of leadership for Deceivin’ Steven. It’s something the MSM has largely ignored, they had the Cons “inching” to a majority for a year.

The top line numbers put the Liberals and Conservatives deadlocked at 31 per cent, with the NDP at 17 and the Greens at 10.

Critics on the right will say yeah, but Harper is a lot more personally popular that Dion. There’s factors like incumbency that help drive that, but it’s an issue I’ve raised as well. Critics within the LPC will say imagine where the party would be in the polls if Dion were more popular. I think he’s working on it, but that’s valid too, we haven’t been able to capitalize on CPC weakness yet. I’d wager though the numbers would be similar with Iggy, Rae or Kennedy.

Let me submit this however: imagine where the CPC numbers would be if it wasn’t for Harper’s personal popularity? If Harper’s popularity figures were lower would the CPC be below 30 per cent, and behind the Liberals? Something intriguing to ponder, n’est pas?


Also interesting are some of the demographic and issue numbers, by percentage.

In the 18-34 age group it’s L36/21, age 35-49 it’s L29/C33, and age 50+ it’s C38/L30. That’s interesting; given all the focus the CPC is giving to middle-aged families I’d expect them to be further ahead in that demo. I’d like to see more pushing on the income trust issue to target that Conservative support among seniors, I think it’s a bit soft and there’s ground to be made there.

Along gender lines, among men it’s C37/L27, and among women it’s L35/C26. That’s not surprising as is inline with the trend. Along wealth lines under $50k its tied 27/27, $50-$100k it’s tied also 31/31, and more than $100k the Libs lead 42/31.

Pollster Peter Donolo, whom it must be noted has strong Liberal ties as a former longtime communications director to PM Jean Chretien, notes the Conservatives are off their year-ago high of 37 per cent largely due to declining support from women, French-Canadians and voters earning $100k+.

He ties the drop in support from women and Francophones to Afghanistan, and the drop in support from $100k+ earners to the decision to tax income trusts and recent foreign takeovers. I found the Con drop in support from that last demographic astounding: from a whopping 49 per cent a year ago to just 31 per cent today. That’s astounding. Again, I say push the income trusts issue!


The poll puts the environment as the most important issue for Canadians, followed by health care and terrorism/Afghanistan. We’re already doing a lot on the environment front, I think we need to keep pushing on the Afghanistan front, clearly articulating our policy and not let a poll-scared Harper try to redefine himself on that front and wiggle out of his past bellicose rhetoric. And some attention and innovation on the health care front would be good as well, while also drawing more attention to CPC failures on the front, ie. the disappearing wait-times priority.

Region by region

In vote-rich Ontario, the Liberals continue to hold a lead, with 41 per cent, versus 34 per cent for the Tories, a virtual replication of the month before. The NDP is up two points to 13.

Despite the strong Liberal number the urban/rural split will be important here, if the Liberal support is concentrated in the GTA the CPC will do better in seats than these numbers suggest.

In the West, the Tories have dropped four percentage points to 40 per cent, although they continue to lead the Liberals 40-25, with the NDP third at 24.

Again it’s hard to draw conclusions given the huge levels of support the CPC has in Alberta. B.C. will be a battleground, as likely will be the rest of the West save Wild Rose Country. Unless we can harness the Stemlach displeasure somehow.

In Quebec, the Tories continue to lag behind both the Bloc Québécois and the Liberals. The Bloc leads the pack with 40 per cent, while the Liberals are second with 25 per cent. The Conservatives are third with 16 per cent and the NDP fourth with 10 per cent, a jump of four points. The Tory figure is a drop of nine percentage points from the 2006 election.

Steve analyzes the Quebec numbers and I agree, positive news for the Liberals and reason for optimism for Dion. As Donolo said, Dion is becoming the second choice for Quebecers to the BQ. Doesn’t bode well for Harper’s French Kiss, although a sequel from Chantal would be premature.

But consider this figure too:

Among francophones, the Liberals lead the Tories by 21 per cent to 17 per cent.

One year ago, the Conservatives led the Liberals by 11 points.

Maybe Fortier should hang onto that Senate seat after all.

Go forward

I’ll save a discussion of the Afghanistan numbers for another post as this one has gotten long enough already. But clearly I think there’s a lot of positive here for the Liberals, if only in the fact that at least one media outlet has finally awoken to Harper’s massive failure of leadership and inability to grow his support.

While the Liberal support numbers are still unchanged, we are tied with the Cons and I see the seeds in place to pass them and take the lead. We need to keep the pressure on the Cons, don’t let them off the ropes. Stay united, and focus on our issues. The environment is the top issue named, we’ve got the right leader to take on that one. We’ve got the right position on Afghanistan, let’s talk it up and keep the heat on. Let’s get creative on health care.

And I’ll say it again, although I feel rather lonely here, but start talking-up income trusts and drawing attention to our sensible alternative policy on the matter, it’s a support winner. I really think it’s a sleeper election issue.

Lastly, one thing the poll pointed-out was a distaste for Harper’s combative style, epically among women, is a turnoff. I don’t know how you could get this across but Dion is definitely a Bizarro Harper in that respect, if there was any way we could highlight that contrast it may be helpful.

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Tootrusting said...

I am an annoyed Income trust investor who like many have decided to support the Liberals as a result of the conservatives flip flop.
There are over 2 million individual investors that hold/held income trusts, I have yet to meet one who will vote conservative in the next election (I'm sure there is at least one somewhere) on the other hand I know of dozens who have switched parties as a result.
Don't under estimate this issue, angry investors who have lost money do not forgive and forget.
As you look into this subject you can see what a colossal blunder it is not only are there huge investor loses but as recent cases such as Bell show there will be a massive loss in future tax revenue which will effect each and every Canadian in the pocket book.
Don't forget the blacked out documents that was supposed to explain the "New accountable Governments" decision. So far we have nothing but rhetoric to explain the governments position.
The issue doesn't just effect angry income trust investors but each and every Canadian.

Canajun said...

It's not only investors. My broker, a long-time, died-in-the-wool Conservative, has switched camps over this issue as have (according to him) many of his co-workers in the investment community - especially those who were seliing income trusts based, to a large extent, on Hapeer's promises. Nothing like betrayal to get the blood boiling.

Anonymous said...

I am an Income Trust investor who was Lied to and Betrayed by Stephen Harper. If he thinks people will get over such dramatic losses of their savings he should think again. Harper promised to protect seniors investments in Income Trusts and an honorable man with any integrity would keep his word. Harper should listen to Ralph Klein on that point. Harper promised accountability and to restore faith in politicians. His blacked out pages of Income Trust evidence and his muzzling of our elected representatives is a far cry from what he promised. Harper is a self serving Liar and will do and say anything to win a majority government. God help us if he gets it.

Anonymous said...

I think you were a row off on some of your sub-groups.

For 18-34, it's Liberal 36 Con 21
For 35-54, it's Con 33 Liberal 29

You did have the right number for 55+
Con 38 Liberal 30

burlivespipe said...

Good analysis. While perhaps you could be a little more critical on the Liberal effort, you have ground down some important ideas... Income trust and general financial incompetence. We need people like Goodale, McCallum, Blair Wilson and Savage (along with Dion) hammering them over these issues, painting this group as inept -- because they are. Flag IT, but also put a spike in the talk about their attempt to halt Canadian corp/s ability to invest outside Canada, their failure on the R&D front, and put a toe tag on Flahafty's term as Ontario's bungling finance minister.
Apparently the CONs are going to try and 'divide and conquer', using the issue of anti-terrorism powers and (as usual) crime and punishment. We are visually weak on these issues, but certainly the first we should be labelling Harpor for past acts -- if he had his way, Maher Arar would have been bound and gagged and handed over to any police state that wanted him. Hit Harpor on his reluctance to stand up and defend Canadians' rights, and we have to never let people forget that he was Wrong On Iraq.
Keep up the good analysis...

Jeff said...

Right you are Joseph, thanks, my eyes must have skipped a line. Corrected in the post. Still surprised the Cons don't have a bigger lead in the middle age group though.

Burl, since I've been fairly critical of the Liberal effort for months now I thought I'd take a more constructive approach here, and I really do see some reason for optimism. I also think the study shows we haven't been doing as bad as has been though, the Quebec/francophone stuff is particularly positive for Dion in particular.

Scotian said...

I do have one question for you BCer, why is it you did a breakdown analysis of all major regions except the Atlantic region? I realize we are only roughly 10% of the total seats in Parliament but that should have counted for something.

Jeff said...

Wasn't intentional on my part Scotian. For some reason, the Globe didn't include the Atlantic numbers in their coverage, so I don't know what they are. I'd be interested to see them, esp. given all that's happening around the Atlantic Accord and what not.

Scotian said...


Thanks Jeff, I suspected as much. So it seems the G&M thinks we are not worth mentioning in such breakdowns, so nice to see how 4 Provinces out of ten are so not worth considering. And people wonder why I tend to get a little snarky whenever I see my region ignored/stereotyped outrageous/slammed as full of welfare bums and greedy SOBs because we think we should have the same considerations to develop our oil/gas sector as Alberta had (yet somehow that is trying to eat your cake and have it hypocrisy and greed according to many Albertans along with many others). *sigh*

Jason Hickman said...

Geeze, that's a lot of analysis from a "useless" polling firm's poll, no? (And yeah, I think Gregg's still with 'em now, and Donolo was with 'em last year, too!)

But more seriously, what caught my eye more than the horse-race numbers were the "Issues" that you ID later in your post. What was tops a while ago - Gomery, and presumably, the issues of corruption that went with it - is now trading at 1%.

Yes, the current "Issue environment" gives the Libs a reason to use the, um, environtment issue. But it also shows that what matters as the "big deal" to Canadians can turn around quickly.

Just as Harper wasn't dumb enough to run an "All Gomery, All the Time" campaign last time - despite Lib predictions to the contrary - Dion had better find some other issues. You allude to some in your post, but I'm not sure if I see income trusts and Afghanistan as winners just yet. Damned if I know what the ultimate winners will be mind you, but given the LPC's history on both fronts, I'm not sure they're good enough wedges.

Jeff said...

I was bored Jason. :) And didn't Gregg leave Strategic Counsel to start his own firm? Thought I read that awhile back.

Anyway, agreed on the issues, although I'd say even though Harper didn't run on all Gomery all the time (and the Libs ran on nothing that I could discern) a lot of people voted on Gomery. So the fact it's gone levels the playing field considerably once again.

Anyway, I think the Liberals do have some other issues. They just need to do a better job of getting them out there. And the key may well me lots of targeted issues: their recent push on arts funding is one example.