POLITICS

Political Traction: Robocalling the NDP leadership race

03/19/2012 08:58 EDT | Updated 05/19/2012 05:12 EDT

Jaime Watt joins Power & Politics host Evan Solomon each week to look at how issues making waves in Ottawa resonate with Canadians.

Monitoring the House of Commons' question period, mainstream media and the conversation on social media, Watt and his team at Navigator Ltd. determine which issues gained the most attention in official Ottawa, and then measure how much traction those issues managed to find with Canadians outside the nation's capital.

For the week of March 10, a predicted rise in interest for next week's budget didn't happen, but people were talking about this weekend's NDP leadership convention, particularly outside official Ottawa. Former leader Ed Broadbent's negative public comments about the character of front-runner Thomas Mulcair grabbed Canadians' attention, while pundits in Ottawa focused more on the race between front-runners and their relative strengths and weaknesses.

With the party poised to elect the leader of the Official Opposition for the first time, there is a perceptible shift in focus in that conversation, from the NDP's traditional policy wonk debates towards an unofficial vetting process as the party establishment and rank and file alike ask tough questions with an eye toward picking the leader that can win the next election. Broadbent's comments are an example of that, but in wading in so strongly, he was also seen as compromising his role as elder statesman and risked portraying himself as smarter than the average NDP member.

Robocalls stall in Ottawa

Interest in the controversy over fraudulent election calls fell substantially in Ottawa, where pundits focused on the government's decision to support an NDP motion to give Elections Canada stronger investigative tools. Outside Ottawa, Canadians were more interested in Pierre Poutine and the Guelph case, but an overall downward trend suggests Ottawa pundits, media and Canadians are losing interest as the opposition fails to deliver a "silver bullet." The clock is ticking for the opposition to produce a knock-out punch on this issue, with the NDP convention and federal budget about to dominate the conversation.

A shortage of injectable drugs supplied to hospitals showed a higher level of interest in Ottawa, where the debate centred on policies to ensure it doesn't happen again. Outside Ottawa, Canadians were solely concerned there will be adequate supply to treat loved ones, suggesting the government's focus on finding and distributing replacement drugs as soon as possible was the right move.

Here are the numbers for the week of March 10 to 16:

And here's a look at how the robocalls controversy has played out over the past month: