POLITICS

Political Traction: Canadians support Nexen deal

12/11/2012 11:40 EST | Updated 02/10/2013 05:12 EST
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 federal government's approval of two multi-billion dollar foreign takeover deals — Nexen's takeover by China's state-owned oil firm CNOOC and a bid for Progress Energy by Malaysia's Petronas — got the most traction in Ottawa last week.

Ottawa applauded the government's decision to greenlight the deals, and Canadains followed suit, Watt said on Power & Politics. There was no major backlash across Canada after Prime Mnister Stephen Harper's announcement.

Unlike in past weeks, Canadians aren't concerned now about national security, Watt said. The reason boils down to Harper's decisive messaging on future bids by foreign companies. The prime minister's message that Ottawa won't welcome further foreign investment in the oilsands resonated with Canadians.

"The government of Canada got it right ... The prime minister understood that Canadians had limited appetite for seeing the oilsands completely taken over by foreign governments."

Opposition parties may be able to turn public opinion if they successfully pit the economy against national security in question period, Watt said.

Monarchy faces relevancy crisis

The events surrounding the Dutchess of Cambridge's hospitalization caught the attention of Canadians.

But it wasn't the Dutchess's pregnancy that gained traction. Canadians were more interested in the prank call by two Australian radio hosts, and the death of Jacintha Saldanha, the nurse who let through the phone call.

Canada's interest in the monarchy and royal succession rules is declining, Watt said. Princess Diana's pregancy 30 years ago generated more traction, compared to the interest in Kate's pregnancy.

There's a lack of connection between Canadians' lives and the monarchy, Watt said. "Canadians just don't care."

Teachers losing public opinion battle

Ontario teachers' decision to put up one-day rotating picket lines got the most traction across Canada. But teachers are losing the public opinion battle to the government, according to Watt.

"Everybody agree the students are victims ... People may respect collective bargaining, but they do so up to the point they think kids are going to be inconveninced and kids are going to be hurt."

The Elementary Teachers' Federation of Ontario needs to do a much better job explaining why the strike is good for students, not just teachers. Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty has a very strong mandate to legislate teachers back to work, Watt said.

Watt added that even though the rotating strikes is a provincial story, the concern around education is an everyday issue that hits home.