09/20/2012 13:17 EDT | Updated 11/20/2012 05:12 EST

The Nanos Number: Carbon tax attacks and the economy

Nik Nanos digs beneath the numbers with CBC Power & Politics host Evan Solomon to get to the political, economic and social forces that shape our lives.

This week: Why is the government using attacks on a carbon tax if the economy is now the top national issue of concern?

Attacks over a carbon tax have been the hallmark of this week's return to the House.

But a new survey released by Nanos Research reveals that jobs and economy are now the top national issue of concern for Canadians, at 29.6 per cent. That's up from 23.7 per cent when the question was posed in July.

The economy beat out health care, education, the environment and other issues for the top spot.

Nik Nanos says the economy is going to be the issue to watch over the coming months, especially as concern continues over whether Canada faces another downturn and a so-called double-dip recession.

Nanos Research conducted a random telephone survey of 1,000 Canadians 18 years of age and older between Sept. 4-9, 2012. The poll is accurate within a margin of error of 3.1 percentage points, plus or minus, 19 times out of 20.

So, if the economy is the issue to watch, why is the government continuing with its attacks on the NDP over a non-existent carbon tax?

Nanos says the "Conservatives are looking to define [NDP Leader] Thomas Mulcair in the same way they defined Stéphane Dion," referring to the way the Conservatives attacked the former Liberal leader and his Green Shift policy during the 2008 election campaign.

"The Conservatives have traditionally been very strong on jobs and the economy and one of the ways they've been able to neutralize a lot of these other issues, even like health care, the environment and so forth, is by framing them in an economic lense," Nanos says.

However, it may not work so well this time, Nanos says.

Mulcair has fought back against the attacks and even called the Conservatives liars.

"The Conservatives aren't getting as much of a free ride, at least from Mulcair, as they've had from other opposition leaders," he says.

Recognized as one of Canada's top research experts, Nik Nanos provides numbers-driven counsel to senior executives and major organizations. He leads the analyst team at Nanos, is a Fellow of the Marketing Research and Intelligence Association and a Research Associate Professor with SUNY (Buffalo).