A detailed series of internal government polls obtained by Global News paints a picture of a government struggling to win approval from Canadians on just about any issue, while painting a picture of sharp regional differences when it comes to the top priorities voters want Ottawa to tackle.
Weekly polls commissioned by the Privy Council Office from January through to June show a government given a failing grade by a healthy majority for the way it was handling the economy, climate change, Indigenous issues and crime.
Only on the issue of Canada-U.S. relations did a majority of respondents — 51 per cent — agree the government was on the right track when it came to managing that file.
Overall, through the first six months, the majority of the 24,000 or so who were polled said, week in, week out, that the Trudeau government was on the wrong track.
The polling program is run by the Privy Council Office, each polling question is vetted by the prime minister’s director of research and the results are used by the prime minister and his top advisors and by cabinet and deputy ministers to shape federal government policy.
The net result of that January-June trend line that consistently showed Canadians thought the government was going in the wrong direction: a cabinet shuffle in July and an attempt by the prime minister and his close advisors to reset their focus and agenda.
One of the cabinet’s strongest performers, Nova Scotia’s Sean Fraser, was tasked to lead that reset as the minister for housing and infrastructure.
The polling data was obtained by Global News through access to information laws. The data for June is the most recent that has been made available.
The PCO polling program divides the country into six geographical regions and in all but one of those, the trend was the same: many more people said the government was on the wrong track than the right track.
The only exception was Quebec, where more respondents said the government was on the right track than the wrong track — the one glimmer of good news for the government. Quebec support for the Liberals has been crucial in the last two elections.
In the weeks ahead of the July cabinet shuffle, Trudeau’s cabinet and close advisors were seeing the gap between “wrong track” and “right track” widen in British Columbia, Ontario and Atlantic Canada — three regions that will be critical to any future electoral success for the government.
The data also shows that when it comes to identifying which one issue Canadians believe is the most important for the government to tackle, there are sharp regional differences, again with Quebec voters showing some markedly different preferences than voters in the rest of the country.
Looking only at the polling results for the month of June, the most Quebecers — 21.5 per cent — told the PCO’s pollster that environment and climate change was “the one issue (that) should receive the greatest attention from the government of Canada.”
Just 5.4 per cent of Albertans responded the same way.
Meanwhile, respondents in other regions gave higher priorities to the cost of housing, health care or inflation. Quebecers, as a group, were the least interested in the cost of housing, cost of living and inflation.
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That question — “Which one issue should receive the most attention from the government of Canada” — is the first question asked in every weekly polling wave and it is an open-ended question. There is no multiple choice.
As a result, respondents can say anything they wish to the live-agent pollster. So, for example, among the 4,000 people polled in June, 2.3 per cent said taxes was that issue; 0.3 per cent said “honesty/keeping promises”; 0.2 per cent said “gun control” and 1.7 per cent said “ousting Trudeau from power” was the one issue that should receive the most attention from the Trudeau government.
A typical month might generate 70 or more different answers to that one open-ended question and yet from January to June the six most common responses were the same every month across every region: affordable housing, cost of living, the economy, environment and climate change, health care and inflation.
And, in every region for the first six months of the year, health care was listed as the preferred top priority, although its dominance in the group of six diminished through to June.
Meanwhile, by the end of the first six months of the year, affordable housing and environment/climate change were more frequently identified as top issues.
That trend, too, has appeared to set up the strategy the Trudeau government used after the cabinet shuffle and into the early fall — a more aggressive turn, via Fraser, to deal with housing issues while continuing its climate change policies with Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault among a handful of ministers who were not shuffled to new jobs in July.
David Akin is the chief political correspondent for Global News.
© 2023 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.
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