POLITICS

Political Traction: Beef recall expands

10/11/2012 12:17 EDT | Updated 12/10/2012 05:12 EST
Jaime Watt joins CBC News Network's 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 tainted meat recall led the Ottawa conversation this week. Traction was driven mostly by question period, and focused on safety policies and deregulation in the meat production industry.

Canadians are pointing the blame at XL Foods, but expect Prime Minister Stephen Harper to take action.

"I don't think the government has handled the recall very well," Watt says. "But, the interesting thing is the company has done even worse than the government has. So the [Conservatives have] gotten off the hook a little bit, because these XL people really failed to actually execute the playbook that ...was developed by Maple Leaf Foods" in the 2008 listeriosis outbreak.

Traction among Canadians nearly doubled when the E. coli outbreak spread to Newfoundland and British Columbia. Watt expects the meat recall to gain more traction throughout the coming week.

Liberal leadership race

For a second week in a row, the Liberal leadership race landed on the Traction radar. The amount of traction among Canadians is waning, but remained steady in Ottawa. Both conversations focused on Justin Trudeau's leadership candidacy.

Canadians' response to Trudeau remains divided. Watt compares Trudeau to Stephen Harper, saying both politicians polarize public opinion.

Watt says Trudeau can tap into this polarized response by picking "counterintuitive policy issues that both your supporters and your opponents support . . . watch for populist middle-class issues to come to the fore in the Justin Trudeau campaign. Not just macro issues that affect the country generally, but ones that are specifically populist."

The U.S. presidential election led the Canada-wide conversation. Canadians agree that Mitt Romney won the first presidential debate.

Leading up to the debate, both candidates received nearly the same number of mentions on social media. But following the debate, Romney took the lead on the amount of mentions. Watt says this shift in support shows the debate could be a game changer on election day.

Next week

The House of Commons isn't sitting this week, so Watt is interested in whether the opposition parties can successfully drive the meat recall story. Watt is also keeping his eye on the takeover bid of Calgary-based Nexen Inc. by China National Offshore Oil Corp (CNOOC). The government's deadline to approve the deal is next week, although the government can extend the deadline by another 30 days.