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My (unscientific) theory on why the Census is dragging down Conservative popularity

I’ve seen more then a few people scratching their heads on why Canadians seem to be paying more attention then some thought they would to the normally mundane topic of the Census, and whether or not it should or shouldn’t be mandatory – at least regarding the longform – and why this seems to have caused downward movement on Conservative polling numbers recently.

I think there are a couple reasons. One that I wont deny is that the topic came up during the summer break when Parliament was on holiday, and there wasn’t other issues out there to obscure this topic. When the ensuing protest and uproar started from the various organizations/cities/provinces etc occurred, the media couldn’t help but notice it (of course, many of the editorials in the media also roundly condemned it). As a result, people couldn’t help but notice it and pay attention, in spite of it being during the summer.

More importantly, the Conservative government’s own actions in how it tried to secretly implement this change and how it has then run from one talking point to another in trying to defend it’s actions probably caught people’s attention. This was done as I’ve said many times before with a Cabinet Order-In-Council that they tried to slip through on the day before Canada Day. An important change like this done with no parliamentary debate, no public hearings, no discussions with experts, and with no warning prior to its move that this would be done smacks of something fishy and sneaky and undemocratic to even the apathetic voter out there.

That leads to the attempted and rather weak defence of the move from Tony Clement et al. (no word from Harper yet, thanks to some media shenanigans last week at his press conference). As the Globe and Mail says in its editorial today, the government is up to its 4th attempted defence as to why this needed to be done. As with prorogation, the Conservatives are running from one defence to the next when their attempted spin lines are belittled or don’t work, and again, people can’t help but notice and get their suspicions up at what exactly the Conservatives are up to here.

As they say, where there’s smoke, there’s fire. I’m presuming that the majority of people out there don’t like to hear that a valuable tool for collecting evidence based data is being replaced by policy making based on assertions and hunches and ideology. And that is why, despite the census hardly being a sexy topic or an overly exciting issue – one that would likely not bring out mass amounts Canadians into the streets to protest – is causing the Conservatives some suffering at the polls.

UPDATE 1 @ 7:29 pm: The PM has finally spoken, and apparently he’s decided to go back to the tyranny/coercion claim. Again, Mr PM, if it’s so bad to do this on the longform, why are you keeping this state tyranny on the shortform part of the census, and on other statistical data collected (the census used for farm data, for example). That argument makes no sense, yet apparently the PM is hoping everyone has forgotten that argument got debunked weeks ago.

UPDATE 2 – same time: Unfortunately for our Conservative commentators ranting about how it’s only a ‘Liberal biased Frank Graves/Ekos poll’ that shows a dead heat, We now have a 2nd poll out confirming the Conservatives dropping into a dead heat with the Liberals – that would be Ipsos-Reid:

The popularity gap between the ruling Conservatives and the Opposition Liberals has narrowed to a near dead heat, suggests a new Ipsos-Reid poll..The poll says Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s Conservatives would garner 34 per cent of decided voters if a vote were held now, and Michael Ignatieff’s Liberals would get 31 per cent, a difference that falls within the survey’s margin of error. New Democrats would capture 15 per cent, while the Green party and Bloc Quebecois would each get nine per cent of decided voters.

Wright traces the Tories decline in popularity to the battering the government has taken over its decision to scrap the mandatory long-form census, and spending and security surrounding the G8 and G20s summits in Ontario.

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33 comments to My (unscientific) theory on why the Census is dragging down Conservative popularity

  • kmartin

    Ottlib..in case you didn’t notice and I hate to confuse the issue with facts but all the polls show Harpo and his band of idiots are still in the lead. So I guess you are right to a degree. All the polls are good news for Cons. Yes it shows they are slipping but given it is summer and to be honest it really is a slow time for politics that is predictable. You say there is no way to replace him before the next election. When Is that because I have heard nothing unless you are banking on rumors. You say we need to get Harpo out and not have the political infighting? Is it not already there? I would think (although I do not like the idea) is to back-track a bit. Would it not be better to forget the next election and find a leader who can inspire Canadians to vote for him instead of having another election where the likely result will be another minority for either side and again our process is held up in partisan petty politics. I do vote local and I know you both preach that this is not a US style system but when we vote local the end result is that we vote a leader in nationally. I dont want to punish the country anymore but I do feel that a vote for the dippers is wrong on so many levels. To me they are a total socialist party and that they would plunge us into debt so far with their socialist programs that the end result would be that any proceeding government would need to raise taxes so high or cut programs so bad that All of Canadian society would greatly suffer as a whole. Brian Mulrouney got a majority and f**ked up so bad that the Libs got three consecutive majority’s. End result…WE WIN!!

    • Jon Pertwee

      @kmartin, wow and you have the gall to accuse me of hot air. Your theory on the NDP seems to suit the current reformatories just fine too. How do you explain their spending? Your concept of socialism is quite simplistic and more similar to the Tory view. Just a bunch of mad fools ready to blow the countries future on some experimental public social engineering? Sure and there’s a red under every bed.

      Thanks for providing me with some classic kmartin jewels of hypocrisy. Now all we need is a wind tunnel by your mouth to harness the hot air.

      • Redrum

        It’s hard to tell whether kmartin’s being a hypocrite here or is just slow-witted. More likely, he’s a “Concern Troll” masquerading as a Liberal, doing a “Tokyo Rose” bit trying to undermine the Party and get people lukewarm on the leader to sit out another election. No true Lib. is afraid of or would turn their nose up at a Lib. minority gov’t: those have been some of our finest hours. And as for condemning Iggy for vacillating & changing his views when he ends up seeing which way the wind blows, this* post by Chet Scoville has helped me see that that’s actually been the quintessential Liberal way, overall; and I’d far rather have a leader who can be convinced that he’s wrong & change his policies accordingly than an intransigent ideologue like Harper.

        * http://thevanitypress.blogspot.com/2010/08/canadian-values-and-harper.html

      • kmartin

        @Jon Pertwee, Actually it is a very simplistic view which is the view 90 percent of Canadian hold on politics. So when they see a guy on the news flip flopping all over the place and they see another doing something whether it is right or wrong they will almost always chose the person who appears to be doing something. I am not going to insult you on this. Its just the way most see it and we libs need to somehow get the 90 percenters to see things differently. As far as my view of the dippers I feel I am right on the money. I know you dont like someone to have thier own opinion but I just cant help myself that way.

      • kmartin

        @Jon Pertwee, If everyone would read back it is actually you Jon who accuses me of blowing hot air. TWICE. The proof is there for all to read. With your accusation that it was I who said that, you only make yourself look……

        • Redrum

          @kmartin, well, by your own account, all you’re doing “is to point out the obvious,” which is pretty paradigmatic of ‘being full of hot air’ — i.e., it doesn’t add anything constructive to the dialogue since it’s all sound & fury signifying nothing. You can’t bring yourself to vote for a party whose leader you don’t connect with? Fine; your perogative. But you don’t think others should, either: that they should join in you in letting the Cons’ win a majority so they can wreck the economy & country so the Libs can swoop in and win a manority and pick up the pieces? No, thanks: the object isn’t to win majorities, it’s to provide the country with good governance, which is quite poss. w. a centre-left minority gov’t, thank you very much, and is vastly preferable to the 4 to 8 years more of tumult & turmoil & hardships you would wish upon much of the country until matters started to be reversed.

        • Jon Pertwee

          @kmartin, thank you Redrum. Ive never painted myself as anything. It’s kmartin who is the one that has the paintbrush.

    • Ottlib

      Well, that was predictable. A Conservative supporter grasping at a relatively good news poll like a drunk taking his first drink in the morning. Whatever gets you through the night I guess.

      Here is some news for everybody. Polls are not predictive. This poll and all of the other polls that have been released in the past week will have no bearing on the vote counts when the election finally happens.

      The modern poll is used to fill column inches and broadcast time and as talking points for pundits. Their actual impact on broader society is minimal at best.

      So, arguing about them and what they mean is pointless.

      • Redrum

        @Ottlib, nevertheless, it will be interesting to see whether even the Tory-friendly Harris-Decima (Allan Gregg used to be the official pollster for Mulroney) will show a pronounced dip in their next cycle, now that the correspondence the Ministry of Industry finally released (after delaying a week, probably so as not to sully the feel-good caucus meeting press last week) to the Parliamentary Committee (by way of the media, curiously) shows:

        that Clement really did deliberately mislead the public & the media about what StatCan’s advice & position was (as if they said a vol. survey with a larger sample size would yield equally reliable data), which forced the Chief Statistician to resign to protect his & StatCan’s reputation & that both Industry & the PMO tried to browbeat & bully him into concealing the fact that this was their political decision to make this change rather than StatCan’s recommendation.

      • kmartin

        @Ottlib, Actually I am a card carrying member of the LIBERAL Party. I know it seems hard for my fellow Libs to see this but my goal is to get some of you to see the light(in my opinion) that we are not going anywhere right now with what we have leader wise and policy wise. I feel as a grassroots supporter that IGGY is not good for us. He is not connecting with myself and lots of other Liberal supporters. Its only the die hard supporter that would essentially follow him off the cliff if that is where he would take us. Iggy seems to be all over the map with policy. HE changes his mind and flip flops so much it makes it hard to know which direction he is going on anything. The reason I post some things that I do is to point out the obvious. One solid point is that Harpo is still leading but cant get enough support to get a majority thank god. Our system sucks. I hate the fact that we can elect a minority government and tie its hands so for the last 5 years it seems like not much work has gotten done but an awe-full lot of petty politics and bickering has been going on. Let change it a bit here. If we didnt have this system then lets say Harpo got his majority in the first election when he beat Martin. By now he would have screwed up enough that we should be at election time again and IF…If we had a good leader we might actually get back into power to make things right. While I find Scott’s posts to be informative as to the daily news trash of the day it really is not helping us get any closer to the goal of winning a majority. The faithful followers here are mostly liberals and that is a good thing. The political blogs right now in this country are followed by die hard political junkies who love nothing more to do than to sling mud and dirt at the opposing parties in hopes that this will take them to the promised land. It is not going to work. We(liberals)need a great leader and in my opinion I don’t feel that Iggy is. I would NOT vote for him right now. I would spoil my ballot and I’m sure that with enough ballots like that we end up in the same place we are now. Ottlib is right. The polls are jaded in the fact that most will get a call about a poll and be pissed off at Harpo about this but come election time all is forgotten because if the opposing party has nothing out there except mud and insults but no substance then we end up back here again whining and bitching and unfortunately that’s we we are at right now.

        • Ottlib

          Just as predictable. Someone who does not support the current leadership of the Liberal Party using a relatively good news poll for the Conservatives to support his assertion that Iggy is not the man for the job.

          To tell you the truth I do not know if he is or not nor do I really care. He is the leader and there is no way the Liberals can replace him before the next election without handing an obvious political and policy idiot a majority government. And for me that is the only priorty. We need to finally send Stephen Harper and his gang to the dustbin of history and that will not happen if the Liberals again degenerate into political infighting.

          If you do not like the leadership or you are having problems with the Party I would suggest you go local. That is what I did in 2004. I was royally pissed with the Liberals over Adscam. It was wrong on so many levels and it resulted in me not caring if the Liberals won or not. However, my local Liberal candidate was top-rate so I worked to get her elected. On e-night I celebrated with the rest of her team because we succeeded but I remember having a discussion with some of them in a quiet moment about how the Liberals would not win another election for awhile.

        • Redrum

          @kmartin, you know you don’t live in the U.S., right? Despite Harper’s claims, we don’t actually elect PMs or vote for leaders, here (unless you happen to live in their riding): we vote for individual MPs. So you’d just as soone have _no_ Liberal Offical Opposition or even Party because you don’t like/ have confidence in the leader? Geez. Then at least vote for the NDP rather than spoil your ballot, unless you want to keep punishing the whole country, too.

  • Kring

    And why does it always have to be “if you don’t like it, have an election?”

    Because we keep hearing how this awful, terrible Neo-cons CRAP party are DESTROYING our nation – but curiously, not enough for the Liberals to do something about it like defeat them or to stop supporting them.

    ….but due to our stupid electoral system, we keep getting stuck with them anyway.

    Of course, that was patently NOT the case when the Liberals were in power.

    We have had elections, and the Conservatives keep losing….

    Well, it is not like they have been in government for about five years now, while increasing their seat count each time since Harper has been leader.

    Yep, but they keep losing.

    Heh. Funny, that.

    • Dennis Hollingsworth

      KRING I grow weary with your sactimonious blather … high probability you are just another one of Dictator Steve’s hopeless Sunday School FLUNKIES … you actually think you can rationalize Bull Shitting and deliberately Misleading people because you are one of GOD’s Favorites !!!

    • kmartin

      @Kring, Ooooh..I think we hit a sore spot. Dennis. Take a heart pill and wait for the next election.

  • Dave

    Kinda hard to donate to a political party when you’ve lost your job. Always suspected that there is a little bit of laundry-like activities going on with some of the more whacked-out churches. Evangelical churches are a GREAT place to make dirty money clean…all for Jesus, natch.

  • Redrum

    @S: still a bit too soon to crow victory on this: just cuz it’s gone to the printers doesn’t mean all those forms won’t end up getting recycled if the courts intervene. There’s already one group (the Francophone and Acadian Communities of Canada) who’ve mounted a a court challenge to seek an injunction to halt the census changes, and there’s apt to be more, because there’s lots of diff. types of legislation which make explicit reference to census data to make sure the targets are met, and, guess what, the new NHS is not a census, it’s a voluntary survey.

    http://www.cbc.ca/canada/saskatchewan/story/2010/08/06/sk-census-case-1086.html?ref=rss

  • And why does it always have to be “if you don’t like it, have an election?” We have had elections, and the Conservatives keep losing, but due to our stupid electoral system, we keep getting stuck with them anyway.

  • William M

    It’s very simple, it speaks to pattern.

    Prorogue
    Detainees
    Oh Canada lyrics
    Census

    When you don’t communicate your message, others assume you have something to hide.

  • Greg

    S. how can the opposition bring down the government on this? Parliament is in recess and has been since this announcement was made (though I note Harper kept this secret during the last sitting of the House, I wonder why?). You are right about one thing though, this government makes me feel dirty. Their slime covers us all. Some of us have the grace to be embarrassed by that fact.

  • S

    The census goes to the printers today, doesn’t it? And the opposition haven’t stopped them by calling an election, so to the conservatives, that means Yes We Can. Time for everyone in the anti-con camp to start sending $$ to their party for election funding, cause it doesn’t look like the non-cons are willing to go without $$ in their pockets, and Harper knows it. Howl all you like, Canada. Kick him out or suck it up. That’s now how we play the game in Canada. Kind of makes you feel dirty.

  • Kring

    One single poll from a Liberal enabler made exclusively for another Liberal enabler in the CBC and you guys are all aflutter with “theories” about the Conservative’s lack of popularity.

    Wow, do I ever hope you guys finally find a spine to stop supporting this government and trigger an election.

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