05/14/2013 14:37 EDT | Updated 07/14/2013 05:12 EDT

Political Traction: Harper scores political win on census

Jaime Watt joins CBC News Networks' Power & Politics host Evan Solomon each week to look at how issues making waves in Ottawa resonate with Canadians.

Monitoring the House of Commons' question period, mainstream media and the conversation on social media, Watt and his team at Navigator Ltd. determine which issues gained the most attention in official Ottawa, and then measure how much traction those issues managed to find with Canadians outside the nation's capital.

This week: The controversial scrapping of the mandatory long-form census has been a major political success for Stephen Harper, according to Jaime Watt.

Last Wednesday, Statistics Canada released the results of the National Household Survey, which takes the place of the now defunct long-form census.

The government's move to replace the mandatory long-form census with a voluntary survey nearly three years ago was met with a massive backlash at the time. Canada's former chief statistician, Munir Sheikh, even resigned in protest over the demise of the census.

But Harper waited for opposition to die down instead of changing course, Watt said.

And now, Canadians are hardly talking about the switch to a voluntary survey, and how that has affected the data, Watt said. Instead, the conversation focused more on the survey's results, such as the boost to Canada's immigration population.

"Stephen Harper plays a very long game," Watt said. "And it has paid off."

Pundits in Ottawa are no longer concentrating on census controversy, and Canadians are even less interested in the overall issue, according to Watt. After this week, Ottawa and Canada will likely tune out of this topic and the National Household Survey will perhaps meet its own demise — on the Traction radar, Watt said.

$3.1 Billion: Unaccounted for or missing?

The opposition continues to hammer the Conservatives on the auditor general's conclusion that it can't account for $3.1 billion in anti-terrorism funding.

But the NDP has been using question period to frame the issue by referring to the spending gap as "missing" money. This takes a direct shot at the government for mismanaging taxpayers' dollars.

The government has been responding to jabs by saying the $3.1 billion isn't missing, and that the financial reporting system is the real issue.

"(The government) can call it 'unaccounted for' all they want, but in the race for the media frame, 'missing' is the term that has won the day," Watt said. "That's the (term) people are going to remember."

Watt points out that the opposition should take every chance it gets to fire back at the government on financial accountability. "When the opposition gets the chance to attack (the government) on their core brand attributes, the things that we elect them for, it actually becomes quite powerful for (the opposition)," Watt said.

B.C. election heats up

In the final days leading up to the provincial election in British Columbia, Canadians across the country have been paying attention.

During the beginning of the campaign, the B.C. election cropped up on the Traction radar, but Canadians were hardly tuning in. But as the polls tightened up and the days grew closer to election day, Canada became interested in the B.C. election in a big way.

Watt believes that part of the interest can also be explained by the election's national implications — the next premier will be making decisions on the Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline and the proposed expansion to the Kinder Morgan pipeline. As for next week, Watt predicts the RCMP's probe into Senate expenses will gain major traction.

Here's a look at the Traction numbers: