POLITICS

Harper's Legacy: Canadians Mixed On How He'll Be Remembered, Poll Suggests

11/02/2015 02:15 EST | Updated 11/02/2015 02:59 EST

As Stephen Harper's days as prime minister come to an end, a new poll suggests Canadians aren't sure how he should be remembered.

According to a new survey from the Angus Reid Institute, released Friday, 29 per cent of respondents said Harper will go down in history as an "average" prime minister. Eighteen per cent said he will be remembered as above average, while five per cent said he will be seen as an "outstanding" leader.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, 40 per cent of those surveyed in Harper's native Alberta said he will be seen as an above average or outstanding prime minister.

On the other side, 25 per cent said history will show Harper to have been a "poor" prime minister, while another 18 per cent said he will be seen as a below average.

While more than half of the poll's respondents have a positive impression of Harper's legacy, Conservatives won about 32 per cent of the popular vote in last month's election, producing 99 seats. Justin Trudeau's Liberals, who ran on a message of change and sharply criticized Harper's record, captured 39.5 per cent of the vote and 184 seats.

However, even among those who voted for the Conservatives, Harper's legacy gets positive but not stellar marks.

While 76 per cent of Tory supporters told the Angus Reid Institute he will be judged as average or above average, just 16 per cent said he will be remembered as outstanding.

The poll also took a look at the Harper government's record from 2006 to 2015. Respondents were given a list of actions taken by the Tories — from lowering corporate taxes to shrinking the size of government to joining the combat mission against the Islamic State — and asked to choose its two biggest accomplishments and failures.

Thirty-six per cent said reducing the Goods and Services Tax (GST) to five per cent from seven was the top achievement, while almost one-quarter pointed to balanced budgets between 2006-2008, and 2015, as the biggest feat. However, the second-most popular choice, at 24 per cent, was "none of these."

Harper's environmental record was seen as the biggest failure, with 27 per cent citing Canada pulling out of the Kyoto Accord on climate change as the most notable letdown. Twenty-six per cent cited the so-called muzzling of scientists and 20 per cent highlighted the passing of Bill C-51, the government's controversial anti-terror legislation.

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Harper's Legacy: Top Achievements, Failures, According To Poll

When the polling firm asked if the Tory government's accomplishments will outweigh its failures, just 25 per cent said that would be the case. While 35 per cent said it was too soon to tell or that they didn't know, 39 per cent said the failures of the Harper government will outweigh successes in the long run.

But it seems party allegiances weighed heavily on that particular answer. Seventy-five per cent of Tory supporters said Harper's accomplishments will overshadow the disappointments, while just seven per cent of Liberal supporters and four per cent of NDP voters felt the same.

In the polling summary, Angus Reid Institute took those numbers to mean right-of-centre voters appear prepared to defend Harper's "nascent legacy" going forward.

The survey of 1,412 Canadians was conducted online between Oct. 26 and 28. A probability sample of this size would have a margin of error of 2.6 per cent, 19 times out of 20.

Trudeau will officially replace Harper and become Canada's 23rd prime minister on Wednesday. A day later, Tories will pick an interim leader to serve in a caretaker capacity until a full-time replacement is elected by the party.

Harper has vowed to stay on as an MP, representing the riding of Calgary Heritage.

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