Jeffrey Simpson has an interesting column in this morning's Globe and Mail. The Conservatives equate majority government with majority support. But, Simpson writes, despite their attempts to change the Canadian character, the Harperites are still a distinct minority:
Reading the latest Focus Canada survey from the Environics Institute, however, illustrates how little progress the Conservatives have made. If this survey (that goes back more than three decades) shows anything, it is how on many issues the Conservative government is offside majority public opinion.
The survey tells the story. What Conservatives hold dear, most Canadians don't:
The Harperites are keen on symbols of importance to their core and, they hope, by extension to other Canadians. No such luck. They are gaga about the British monarchy. Yet when asked about the importance of national symbols, Canadians ranked monarchy last, a pitiful 17 per cent – way behind the second-least-important symbol. (A Nanos poll recently showed how the $30-million spent by the Harperites on “celebrating” the War of 1812 completely flopped as a way of re-engaging Canadians with that bit of history.)
On more important matters, 23 per cent of Conservatives are skeptical about the reality of climate change, compared with just 12 per cent of the general population. Six in 10 Canadians say they would support a B.C.-style carbon tax, but only 43 per cent of Conservatives would.
The two most important symbols for Canadians remain health care and the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, neither of which the Harper government highlights.
Support for bilingualism is growing. It’s up to 63 per cent nationally but is favoured by just 46 per cent of Conservative supporters. Support is lowest in Alberta, the Conservative heartland. The aboriginal part of Canada’s makeup is seen by about half of Canadians as an important national symbol, but by only 33 per cent of Conservatives.
So, how does one account for Conservative success? Well, the current first past the post system works in their favour. But, at the moment, Canadians seem to be pretty self satisfied:
Five years after that recession, the Environics Institute finds that 54 per cent of Canadians are “satisfied with the way things are going in the country.” That’s the second-highest level of satisfaction in the world (after China), and up from 45 per cent when Stephen Harper became Prime Minister.
Eighty-five per cent of Canadians report they are “very” or “somewhat” satisfied with the standard of living, a number that has varied very little in two decades.
The problem is that, while Canadians sit smugly in their homes, Mr. Harper is radically changing the way the country is governed -- and he is doing it quietly. When Canadians eventually rouse themselves from their apathy, they will be horrified by what their prime minister has done.
They are sleeping through disaster.