OTTAWA - The Harper government's unexpected decision to restore the traditional names of the navy and air force has the support of a majority of Canadians, a new poll suggests.
On Aug. 16, the Tories announced the return of the Royal Canadian Navy and the Royal Canadian Air Force after four decades as Maritime Command and Air Command.
A survey by The Canadian Press-Harris/Decima found that 56 per cent of respondents agreed with the change and only 31 per cent opposed it.
The poll suggests support is consistent across ages, genders and income levels. On partisan lines, Conservatives offered 72 per cent support, but even self-declared Liberals and New Democrats showed majority support.
Among Bloc Quebecois supporters however, 74 per cent opposed the change.
Regionally, there was marked disagreement only in Quebec, where 41 per cent approved of the idea and 46 per cent were against it.
Doug Anderson, senior vice-president of Harris/Decima, said the bare numbers in Quebec may conceal a deeper reality, however.
"Within the partisan scope it's really only Bloc Quebecois supporters who are opposed to it," he said.
"This means that actually among all the rest of the voters in Quebec who are either considering a federalist party or not considering the Bloc Quebecois, there must necessarily, mathematically, be overwhelming agreement with the move."
The omnibus telephone survey interviewed just over 1,000 people Aug. 18-22 and is considered accurate to within plus or minus 3.1 percentage points, 19 times in 20. The margin is wider with regional breakdowns.
The navy gained its "royal" prefix in 1911. The air force was "royal" from 1924. They both lost the titles with unification of the Canadian Forces in 1968, which also did away with different service uniforms. The army never had a royal title and has been Land Forces Command since 1986. Now, however, it will revert to its old title of the Canadian Army.
The uniforms — air force blue, navy black and army green — were restored in 1986.
Anderson said the royal connections were never totally eradicated. Naval vessels were still know as "Her Majesty's Canadian Ship," and regimental titles stayed the same — Quebec's Royal 22nd Regiment, for example.
"Tradition and military have a very different impact," Anderson said.
"I think you can go with making a royal designation for the military, returning it to something that was a source of pride and that's different from perhaps changing some other Crown corporation . . . to 'royal' that doesn't currently have 'royal' and never did.
"This probably taps into the sense that pride in military is largely built on pride in historic efforts."
He also suggested that the highly successful summer visit by Prince William and his new bride may have bolstered the "royal" brand in Canada, making the change more palatable.