POLITICS

Political Traction: Obama trumps the omnibus bill

05/16/2012 01:20 EDT | Updated 07/16/2012 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 Conservatives' budget implementation bill, C-38, was the main topic of conversation in Ottawa, led by procedural concerns that the omnibus bill does not allow for adequate debate. Interest by Canadians in general was much lower, but indicated the government's tactics aren't passing the smell test.

While the NDP's message against C-38 doesn't seem to be be getting much further than its own base, the national conversation shows Canadians aren't impressed with the government's tactics and are looking squarely at the Prime Minister.

Canadians seem to be attuned to the marjority reality of Parliament, but while the NDP seems to have an audience, they need to make it about Canadians and not procedural games.

Quebec student protests

The conversation in Ottawa showed little patience or sympathy for students protesting planned tuition hikes in Quebec, with pundits squarely on the side of the Quebec government. Canadians were more divided, with some supporting the general aims of the students.

But in that national conversation, Canadians were using two very different frames of refeerence that each used a distinct language: protesters ("police," "protests," "violent," "injured," "money") vs. students ("rights," "movement," "Canadian," "good"). Smoke bombs in the Montreal subway late in the week appear to be the incident that pushed the issue over the edge in to the national conversation.

Those two differing frames — "protesters" vs. "students" — provide a lesson for the Quebec government, and Premier Jean Charest should be relentless in defining the activities as protests.

Obama's stand on marriage

Conversation in Ottawa hailed U.S. President Barack Obama's decision to publicly support same-sex marriage as an "act of moral leadership," while Canadians in general were more attuned to the politicization of the issue and focussed on the immediate outcry from Republicans. While Canadians certainly weren't the primary audience for his remarks, Obama made a big splash here.

South of the border, he identified a wedge issue that is already starting to differentiate his campaign from that of Mitt Romney, who earlier declared marriage as between one man and one woman. It's an emotional issue that will surely drive voters, both for and against equal marriage.

Here are the numbers for the week of May 5 to 11: