04/18/2019 14:23 EDT | Updated 04/18/2019 14:38 EDT

Most Canadians Say Term Limits For Politicians Are Necessary, Poll Suggests

Tory voters are most likely to feel this way, according to Angus Reid Institute numbers.

Adrian Wyld/CP
The Speaker of the House of Commons Geoff Regan, Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau stand with MPs as they pose for a photo before question period on Dec. 12, 2018 in Ottawa.

More than half of Canadians think it is not only a good idea but a necessary one to bring in term limits for elected officials, a new poll suggests.

According to numbers the Angus Reid Institute released Thursday, 54 per cent of respondents told the firm that term limits for elected politicians are necessary, while 29 per cent held the opposite view. Seventeen per cent of respondents said they were uncertain about the issue.

Angus Reid Institute
A screengrab of a poll from the Angus Reid Institute, released on April 17, 2019.

Before being asked to weigh in, the firm summarized common arguments made in favour and against placing restrictions on how long politicians can serve.

While some maintain that having no term limits allows politicians to "create better long-term connections" with constituents, others argue that limits ensure they can't amass "too much power and financial support" over possible challengers.

Those who are most open to voting Conservative in the next election were more inclined than likely Liberal or NDP supporters to see term limits as a good thing. Sixty-three per cent of Tory backers say they are necessary, compared to 39 per cent of Liberals and 49 per cent of New Democrats.

Angus Reid Institute
A screengrab of a poll from the Angus Reid Institute, released on April 17, 2019.

There's some irony in that result: Tory Leader Andrew Scheer was first elected to the House of Commons in 2004 and has served since the age of 25. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was first elected as a Liberal MP in 2008, while NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh won a federal seat in February. Singh served six years in the Ontario legislature before making the jump to federal politics in 2017.

The poll suggests that if limits were adopted, many Canadians think two terms of eight years is plenty of time for leaders to make an impact. Forty-eight percent of respondents said eight years is long enough for premiers to serve and 46 per cent said the same about prime ministers.

In the United States, the president is constitutionally limited to two elected terms of four years, but there is no such restriction on members of Congress.

The Angus Reid Institute also found respondents wouldn't necessarily want leaders to be put out to pasture permanently after eight years. More than half 54 per cent said a politician who has left office because of term limits should be allowed to run again for the same elected position after "a few years."

B.C. Green leader pushes for 12-year limits

The idea of bringing fixed term limits to Canada is not new, but it's a tricky concept in a parliamentary system where minority governments mean MPs or provincial politicians aren't guaranteed a full four years before an election is called.

When he was running for the leadership of the Alberta Progressive Conservatives in 2014, the late Jim Prentice floated the idea of Alberta MLAs serving a maximum of 12 years with a limit of eight years for the premier, Maclean's reported at the time.

B.C. Green Leader Andrew Weaver tabled a private member's bill in February to limit the service of MLAs in that province to 12 years or three terms.

"The introduction of term limits would ensure that those seeking elected office recognize that serving the people of British Columbia should be interpreted as a sense of civic duty, not a career path," Weaver told the legislature at the time.

The Angus Reid Institute's survey was conducted online between March 20-25, 2019, among a representative randomized sample of 1,600 Canadian adults who are members of the Angus Reid Forum. The polling firm says that, for comparison purposes only, a similar poll would carry a margin of 2.4 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

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