Two year-end surveys suggest that, while Canadians are divided on the prime minister's job performance, a large enough proportion support Stephen Harper for his hold on office to remain more than secure.
A poll by Ipsos-Reid for Postmedia found 45 per cent of Canadians approve of the way Harper is handling his job, the kind of numbers that would easily give his Conservative Party a governing majority in a general election.
But passions run high among his opponents. Only 11 per cent strongly approve of Harper's performance, while 26 per cent strongly disapprove (another 29 per cent somewhat disapprove).
Similarly, 44 per cent of respondents said they shared the prime minister's "values when it comes to where Canada should be headed."However, there are stark regional variations. While 60 per cent of Albertans agreed with that statement, that number was only 28 per cent in Quebec.
A slightly larger proportion, 48 per cent, somewhat or strongly agreed that Harper's approach to politics has been good for Canada, while 44 per cent said that the majority government in Ottawa is working well. The same number of Canadians said Harper's approach to politics has been good for Parliament. Undoubtedly, the opposition parties would find themselves in the 56 per cent of respondents who disagreed.
Interestingly, Harper's lowest result came on the question of whether he should run again in 2015: 43 per cent somewhat or strongly agreed that he should, compared to 57 per cent who thought he shouldn't. His lowest numbers came in Quebec (30 per cent) and Atlantic Canada (32), and only in Alberta did a majority think he should take another kick at the can.
A poll by Nanos Research for the Institute for Research on Public Policy produced some similar results, but muddied the waters by giving respondents a greater array of possible answers. One-third of Canadians said the performance of Harper's government was very or somewhat good, while another third said it was somewhat or very poor. The remaining third gave his performance an average rating or were unsure.
Canadians were more bullish on whether Canada is headed in the right direction: 48 per cent said so, compared to only 27 per cent who said the country is going in the wrong direction. While that is the lowest proportion of respondents in recent years to give the country the thumbs up, the wrong direction score was also the lowest since 2007. The cause is the unusually high 25 per cent who were unsure of the answer -- if those are removed, 64 per cent of remaining respondents think the country is headed in the right direction. That is generally in line with other tallies with the "unsures" removed, lower than the 77 per cent of 2007 but higher than the 58 per cent of 2010. Nevertheless, the uncertainty that Canadians are expressing this year on whether the country is headed in the right or wrong direction is less than positive.
While any leader would prefer to have an approval rating of over 50 per cent, the prime minister has reason to feel comfortable with these numbers. The kind of widespread disapproval of his performance or how the country is doing that would spell the end of his political future does not appear to exist. When there is no imperative desire for change, the incumbent almost always has a huge advantage.
Éric Grenier taps The Pulse of federal and regional politics for Huffington Post Canada readers on most Tuesdays and Fridays. Grenier is the author of ThreeHundredEight.com, covering Canadian politics, polls and electoral projections.
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Majority governments are by definition strong and stable, so this talking point essentially means nothing. Do the Tories really think they'll win another majority by reminding us they already have one?
6. The NDP's Illegal Union Donations
Curious about the questionable campaign fundraising done by Tory ministers <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/tag/peter-penashue">Peter Penashue</a> and <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/news/dean-del-mastro">Dean Del Mastro</a>? Well the Conservatives have an answer for you. The NDP is much, much worse. While the <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2012/08/27/ndp-union-sponsorship-donations-returned-elections-canada_n_1834802.html">New Democrats did pay back nearly $350,000 in sponsorship money from unions</a> after Elections Canada found the party guilty of violating campaign finance laws, that doesn't give the Tories the right to ignore legitimate questions about their own fundraising practices. Then again, why answer questions when you can just blame the other guy?
5. Alexandre Boulerice's Separatist Past
When NDP MP Alexandre Boulerice asks the government something in question period he usually already knows the Tories' answer. 'Remember when you were a separatist?' <a href="http://cnews.canoe.ca/CNEWS/Politics/2012/06/08/19854701.html">Boulerice has long since admitted he used to sympathize with separatists</a> and it's time for the Tories (we're looking at you Pierre Poilievre) to let this one go.
4. Liberals Are The Only Ones To Be Found Guilty Of Misleading Robocalls
Instead of answering questions about allegations of misleading robocalls during the 2011 election, the Tories generally pivot and remind people the <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2012/08/24/liberal-robocall-fine-guelph-crtc_n_1827915.html">Liberals are the only party that has actually been found guilty of phone-call shenanigans</a>. While this is true, it doesn't erase the fact that <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/news/robocalls-scandal">Elections Canada's investigation seems to have a fair bit to do with the CPC</a>. Canadians deserve to know what really happened on election day, but the Tories seem content to remind us of their rival's misdeeds. Let's hope all that ends in 2013.
3. No Money Has Been Spent On The F-35 Acquisition
No answer regarding the <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/news/f-35">now-scuttled acquisition of the F-35</a> is complete without reminding the audience that no money has been spent on the purchase. Well, as long as you don't count <a href="http://news.nationalpost.com/2012/06/05/opposition-parties-hammer-conservative-government-over-f-35-press-conference-that-cost-taxpayers-47000/">all the cash spent on the flashy press conference in 2010 when Peter MacKay got to sit in the cockpit</a> right? Wouldn't it be more accurate to say plenty of money has been spent trying to replace Canada's ageing CF-18s, it's just that none of it has actually been on new planes? The Tories aren't fooling anyone here. It's time to admit mistakes were made.
2. One Of The Strongest Economies In The Developed World
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1. Job-Killing Carbon Tax
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