Stefanson dogged by low popularity


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Heather Stefanson remains the country’s least popular premier.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 14/06/2022 (289 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Heather Stefanson remains the country’s least popular premier.

Stefanson, who has ranked last in the three Angus Reid Institute polls taken since she became premier last fall, has dropped two percentage points — to 23 per cent support in the poll released on Tuesday.

Alberta’s Jason Kenney is second-least popular at 32 per cent while Nova Scotia’s Tim Houston is most popular, at 62 per cent.

Stefanson’s approval rating reached a high point — of 25 per cent — in March after dipping to 21 per cent in December.

But Stefanson herself said she’s not concerned about polling numbers.

“It’s just important that every day I will continue to go out and work on behalf of Manitobans,” she said last week.

“I’m not interested about popularity. I care very deeply about each and every Manitoban and I will continue to do the very best of my ability to represent them, and our province, and to ensure that we do things to make their lives better in Manitoba.”

Kelly Saunders, associate political science professor at Brandon University, said Stefanson should be interested in popularity or she could be out of a job after the next election, which has to be held by Oct. 3, 2023.

“These numbers just keep going down and down and down,” Saunders said. “Once voters’ minds are formed on the character of a person, their personality, and these sorts of more personal things, once these impressions are formed it is hard to recover. You only get to make a first impression once.

“She has a steep mountain to climb.”

Her poor polling is lower than numbers garnered for former premier Brian Pallister and interim premier Kelvin Goertzen.

Pallister’s lowest number was 32 per cent in late 2020, during the latter part of the second wave of COVID-19. He popped up to 36 per cent by March 2021, but went down to 33 per cent in June.

Three months later, Pallister was gone and Goertzen was in the premier’s seat, sitting at 35 per cent, before Stefanson won the Tory leadership vote over former Conservative MP and cabinet minister Shelly Glover.

Instead of the bounce in popularity Tory party faithful had hoped for, the numbers continued to slide.

As well, in January, a Probe research poll found Stefanson’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic was as bad as that of Pallister. She had the support of just three out of 10 Manitobans. That poll followed a Probe omnibus poll in December that found the governing Progressive Conservative party had 37 per cent support. The Tories were at 47 per cent when they won the 2019 election.

Paul Thomas, professor emeritus in the political science department at the University of Manitoba, said the latest popularity poll numbers “are not good for the premier or her party.

“There’s no simple easy solution that could turn things around to help with a political recovery… She can’t have errors — there’s no time for that.”

Thomas said Stefanson could follow the example of Ontario Premier Doug Ford, who went from having dismal polling numbers to being re-elected with a large majority government earlier this month, but she will have to change.

“It was because of his (Ford’s) willingness to show some humility and say he was worry and to admit he made a mistake,” Thomas said.

“I think these days, when expectations are low, it is beneficial for politicians to admit they made a mistake. If Premier Stefanson said at some point over the course of our years in office, we’ve made decisions that seemed to be right at the time, but they were not, we apologize.

“Right now, this government has painted a picture it isn’t listening and it isn’t responsive.”

— with files from Danielle Da Silva

Kevin Rollason

Kevin Rollason

Kevin Rollason is one of the more versatile reporters at the Winnipeg Free Press. Whether it is covering city hall, the law courts, or general reporting, Rollason can be counted on to not only answer the 5 Ws — Who, What, When, Where and Why — but to do it in an interesting and accessible way for readers.

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