10/02/2012 11:17 EDT | Updated 10/02/2012 12:56 EDT

Issues Poll Hints At Motivation For Conservative Policies


Canadians want better health care and more jobs. These are the findings of a new poll of Canadians’ priorities, but in addition to these usual top issues the survey shows some interesting perspectives on the problems facing the country.

Unsurprisingly, 95 per cent of Canadians said "improving the quality of our health care system" was a top or moderate priority in the Ipsos-Reid poll for Postmedia News taken at the end of September. Also unshocking was the 94 per cent who said the same about "creating jobs," though interestingly residents of Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba were less likely to call this a top priority, undoubtedly due to their buzzing economies.

There was less uniformity on other issues, however, particularly on reducing the footprint of the federal government. While 82 per cent said "scaling back pensions for Members of Parliament" was a top or moderate priority, only a bare majority said it was a top priority and younger Canadians were less likely to see this as a pressing issue.

On "cutting back on jobs in the public service," opinion was split down the middle. Fifty-one per cent said it was an important priority, while 49 per cent said it was not. Age was a factor here as well, as almost double the number of those 55 years and older said it was a top or moderate priority than those age 18 to 34. And the more educated and wealthy a person was, the less likely they were to see the public service as worth cutting.

Canadians are more on board with cutting taxes, as 79 per cent said it was a top or moderate priority. Those with a high school education especially feel the pinch, as 52 per cent said it was a top priority. Only 28 per cent of university graduates felt the same way.

The poll also demonstrates that westerners are more concerned with issues relating to energy, as would be expected. Though 59 per cent said "foreign investment or ownership of our energy sector by countries like China" is an important priority, that rose to 68 per cent in Alberta. And, while 45 per cent of all Canadians felt that "pipelines to carry oil from Alberta to foreign markets" was not an important issue, 61 per cent of British Columbians and 75 per cent of Albertans thought it was.

There were a few surprises in the poll. Despite having fallen out of fashion for political parties, 77 per cent of Canadians still feel that the environment is a top or moderate priority. And Quebecers are no more likely to consider national unity or separation a top or moderate priority than people in the rest of Canada (38 per cent).

For the Conservative government, the most worrying number in the survey may be 76 per cent — the proportion of Canadians who consider the costly F-35 fighter plane a low or non-existent priority. Better for the Tories, then, to hit on taxes, MP pensions, and jobs in order to change the subject.

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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