26 January 2006

Vox populi

Canadian Publius has an interesting point on the results of Monday's election and an Environics poll conducted for CBC.

As Publius puts it:
According to Environics, of the 36% who voted conservative, 54% voted that way because they wanted a change, only 41% because they wanted a conservative government.

In plain English, only about 17% of Canadians want a Conservative government. The remaining 19% who voted conservative felt the Liberals needed a kick in the pants.

Turn the dial on your time machine and head back to the Conservative minority of May 1979. As Jeffrey Simpson described it in Discipline of power, the Conservatives discovered that for all the promises of action and uplifting rhetoric, more than anything else voters crossed to the Conservatives "not because of the promises made during the campaign, but because they were tired of Trudeau and wanted a change."

Allan Gregg, then the Conservative's pollster, described it this way: "The reason for the nationwide impact on voting behaviour undoubtedly stemmed from the almost unanimous belief it was time for a change....Equally, our core support - that is, 1979 voters who identified with the PC Party and claimed they always voted PC - comprised a mere 18% of the electorate, or about one half of our May 22nd support...."

Back in 2006, the Environics poll found strong support for two Conservative promises. Canadians like getting tough on crime and on electing senators, but they were divided almost evenly on cutting the GST, getting rid of the gun registry and dismantling the national daycare system established by Paul Martin.

Health care and the health system remained the single most important issue for most Canadians polled by Environics with honesty/ethics and accountability coming second.

Respondents are almost evenly split on whether or not the Conservatives would be good for the country.

The upshot of all this is pretty straightforward. The Conservative minority will have a challenge as it moves to implement its platform. Some elements, such as the accountability sections, will likely garner easy support. Support for senate reform is such that the prime minister-elect could move quickly on that as well and could build support for even more significant changes than the ones he is proposing.

Of course, Environics did not poll the provincial premiers.

They are lining up for federal cash.

And that's a whole other can of political worms.