Canadians, most of whom think their province is being short-changed by Ottawa, want to re-elect the Liberal government, but they want Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer to lead it. So says the Leger Marketing company after surveying its carefully assembled panel of respondents. If that makes Canadians seem deeply confused and ill-informed, that may simply reflect the limitations of opinion survey science.
It may well be that people in each province think some other province is better treated, just as all the children in a family may think some other child is better loved by the parents. But that just shows that regional jealousy is as common as sibling rivalry, with as little substance behind it. It provides a sore point for local axe-grinders to complain about, but it is not a problem a federal government can solve.
The Leger firm questioned 1,522 Canadians over the internet between April 18 and April 22 and weighted their answers to make them represent the whole Canadian population in age, gender, education, mother tongue and region. The survey found that 30 per cent of the people think Canada will be better off with a Liberal government, while 25 per cent think a Conservative government would be a better choice. But 25 per cent think Andrew Scheer would make a better prime minister, compared to 20 per cent who think better of Justin Trudeau. The question of voting intentions came in at 40 per cent Conservative to 27 per cent Liberal.
This survey is no ringing endorsement for either leader or either party. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau seems unsatisfactory these days because ministers have been quitting his government on account of an internal quarrel over a bribery prosecution of the SNC-Lavalin engineering firm. A party leader who can’t hold his government together does not inspire confidence.
Opposition leader Andrew Scheer seems equally unsatisfactory. He lets Ontario Premier Doug Ford, Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe and Alberta Premier Jason Kenney dictate his policy on greenhouse gas emissions — which is no policy at all but mere obstruction of Mr. Trudeau’s carbon tax. Mere obstruction is all you might expect from a premier, but someone who wants to be prime minister needs to reach higher.
Canadians’ favourite candidate for prime minister at the moment is a combination of None of the Above and I Don’t Know.
The danger at the moment for Mr. Scheer is that he may latch onto the 40 per cent voting intention number and conclude that his discourse is working, propelling him inexorably toward government. Taken as a whole, however, the Leger survey suggests that Canadians’ favourite candidate for prime minister at the moment is a combination of None of the Above and I Don’t Know (which represent 33 per cent of respondents).
Mr. Trudeau has yet to show the leadership qualities that would keep a government united under his leadership around a single policy — or at least the ability to cow dissidents into silence. While the SNC-Lavalin matter remains unresolved, the suspicion will remain that he is not the leader Canada needs. Mr. Scheer, similarly, needs to show that he is not merely a mouthpiece for regional jealousies and provincial malcontents but has a clear grasp of the Canadian national interest. A prime minister sometimes must disappoint his provincial allies, but Canadians don’t yet know if Mr. Scheer is capable of doing that.
In the 5½ months that remain until Canadians must pick a prime minister, one of these party leaders might surprise the country with leadership qualities they have been concealing up to this point.
If not, None of the Above and I Don’t Know may still lead the field.
Editorials are the consensus view of the Winnipeg Free Press’ editorial board.
Updated on Tuesday, April 30, 2019 at 6:28 AM CDT: Corrects reference to time left before federal election