Friday, January 16, 2009

Anxious Canadians tell Tories to spend to save economy

This is from the Globe and Mail.

Even though infrastructure spending is tops on the list, tax cuts are also relatively popular though not on the GST. No doubt Harper will provide enough of each of these to garner some public support and even more importantly the votes of the Liberals under Ignatieff. The poll mentioned in the article still has the Tories ahead in voter intention but not by nearly as much as when Dion was at the helm. It seems as well that Ignatieff might be able to draw some support away from the NDP and the Greens. In my own view there is little to choose between Liberal and Tories. Why waste a vote on one of the main parties. The ruling class has a controlling interest in both. Once in a while minority shareholders right or left will be thrown a few crumbs.
It is interesting that the standard free market mantras are being temporarily shelved. However, we will continue to hear that it is necessary to cut entitlements and keep labor costs low in these tough times at the same time as billions are spent in bailing out corporations. Once things start to turn around there will be big pressure to dismantle what is left of the welfare state to pay down the increased debt.

Anxious Canadians tell Tories to spend to save economy
From Friday's Globe and Mail
January 15, 2009 at 11:01 PM EST
OTTAWA — Canadians overwhelmingly prefer government spending over GST cuts to combat the coming recession, according to a new poll conducted as the Tories prepare what could be one of the most crucial federal budgets since the mid-1990s.
Voters are also more anxious about the economy than they have been since the recession of the early 1990s, pollsters say, with nearly half of those surveyed saying they expect the recession will last into 2010.
The Liberals, under new Leader Michael Ignatieff, might be able to lure away support from the NDP, Bloc Québécois and Greens, making the Harper Conservatives vulnerable to a coalition of anti-Tory voters, the poll suggests.
“There's a real sense of emergency about the economy,” said Peter Donolo, a partner with the Strategic Counsel, which conducted the poll for The Globe and Mail and CTV News. “People are consumed by it.”
The poll found that 61 per cent of Canadians rated the economy as the most important issue facing the country, compared with 18 per cent from six months ago. Mr. Donolo said concern hasn't been this high since 1992.
Canadians in the survey were asked to rate the three priorities they would like the government to deal with in its Jan. 27 budget. Spending on roads, buildings and other infrastructure projects was mentioned by 54 per cent of those surveyed, while only 11 per cent had a one-percentage-point goods and services tax cut on the list.
Thirty-nine per cent picked income tax cuts, while 34 per cent said the government should invest in training programs and 27 per cent said spending cuts. Eight per cent said the government should offer a one-time $400 tax rebate. The business community has bandied about both GST cuts and tax rebates.
The results are similar to other recent polls that have found Canadians less supportive of tax cuts than they are of spending. A Canadian Press-Harris/Decima survey released this week asked Canadians what the best approach for the economy would be: tax cuts, investment in infrastructure, or working to keep interest rates and inflation down. A plurality in all regions – 43 per cent overall – preferred the last option.
The coming budget is being compared in importance to the mid-1990s budgets of Paul Martin when, as the Liberal finance minister, he was forced to make billions in cuts and take other measures to deal with a burgeoning deficit.
The Strategic Counsel poll found the Liberals under Mr. Ignatieff closing the gap with the Tories on the issue of who is best to deal with the economy, with 38 per cent picking them as best managers, compared with 40 per cent for the Tories. The Tories held a 12-point edge in the area in a poll taken during the 2008 election.
Mr. Ignatieff also appears to have more room to lure support from the NDP, the Bloc and the Greens if the next election were fought on the economy. When asked to choose between the Liberals and Conservatives, 43 per cent of NDP voters opted for the Liberals, compared with 23 per cent for the Tories.
“In a polarized election over the economy, the Liberals could do quite well with third-party votes,” Mr. Donolo said. “They've got credibility with voters in those parties that the Conservatives don't have. That's what it's all about.”
After 11 years of budgetary surpluses, 59 per cent of Canadians told pollsters that going into a deficit is now the right thing to do, compared with 34 per cent who want to maintain a balanced budget. Less than one year ago, 92 per cent of Canadians surveyed said it was important to balance the budget, while only 6 per cent said such an objective was not important.
“It's been a total and complete turnaround in public opinion on this issue. … In one year, people have been totally shaken on this,” Mr. Donolo said.
Canadians also believe the country is in for a long period of difficulty. While 49 per cent said they believe the recession will last until 2010, 32 per cent said it will last all of 2009 and only 16 per cent said it will be over by summer.
“People are hunkered down,” Mr. Donolo said.
That level of pessimism may actually help the Tories, who could benefit from the fact that Canadians aren't expecting miracles, he said.
The Tories still lead the Liberals in voter intention – 36 to 29 – a gap that has shrunk by five percentage points from election day, when the Tories received 38 per cent of the votes and the Liberals 26. The poll saw no change for the NDP, at 18 per cent. In Quebec, the Liberals surged well ahead of the Tories, with 29 per cent, compared with 17 per cent. The Bloc continued to lead in Quebec with 36 per cent.
The numbers indicate the Tories have failed to hold on to the increase in popularity they gained after the announcement last year of a Liberal-NDP coalition supported by the Bloc. Within days of the coalition announcement, the Tories had a 21-percentage-point lead over the Liberals.
Of those surveyed, 49 per cent said they would prefer an election over a coalition government if the budget failed and the government was defeated. However, 44 per cent preferred a Liberal-NDP coalition government, with 66 per cent of Quebeckers liking the idea.
The poll found 49 per cent said the Liberals should hold their noses and vote for the government even if they are not satisfied with the budget. Forty-three per cent, however, advised the Liberals to bring down the government if they don't like what they see.
“I think what that says is it raises how long the Parliament can last,” Mr. Donolo said. “How long is it in the Liberals' interest to keep the government in office?”
The poll of 1,000 Canadians was conducted Jan. 12-14 and is accurate to within 3.1 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

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