POLITICS

Political Traction: F-35s, federal job cuts on the radar

05/09/2012 01:21 EDT | Updated 07/09/2012 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.

The F-35 issue was given new life last week by comments from Department of National Defence officials that Canada can't pick an aircraft based solely on Canada's domestic needs. This drove part of the conversation by Canadians who see the F-35s issue as one of priorities — Canadians want to hear the new jets are money well-spent and meet Canada's needs, not the needs of foreign missions.

Going forward, Prime Minister Stephen Harper needs to reclaim control of the F-35 message.

Public service cuts

Canadians' interest in the federal job cuts has shot up; as the adage says, the devil is in the details, and with details announced, Canadians are taking notice.

In the Ottawa conversation, pundits remain largely on-side with the government's decision to cut the size of the civil service. The national conversation suggests Canadians assign responsibility for the cuts to the prime minister — these are seen as "Harper's cuts" — but they aren't yet concerned the cuts will lead to a loss of services. Sentiment has yet to solidify as for or against the cuts.

But Canadians are now watching, and as more cuts are announced, there is an opportunity for NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair to use the issue to define his "new NDP," especially if he focuses on what the cuts mean for Canadians and leave the jobs issue to the unions.

Finally, Ottawa spent much of the week going down memory lane and analyzing the first year of the Harper majority government, but the national conversation paid little interest.

Here's a look at the numbers for the week of April 28 to May 4: