The People Appear in the Mood for Change

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THUNDER BAY – Looking across Canada right now, at the provincial level, the future for incumbent governments doesn’t appear all that bright. The NDP in Manitoba are behind in the polls. In British Columbia, the Liberal Government is falling fast in public support. In Alberta, the Progressive Conservatives are facing a growing challenge from the upstart Wild Rose Alliance.

In Quebec, the Liberals appear to be in trouble too.

It appears voters are in the mood for change.

Ontario remains the only one of the five provinces where there has not been any public opinion polls published recently showing the impact of scandals and the HST.

It is possible that the people of Ontario are still happy with the McGuinty Government, the public approval of the Premier increased from 18% to 21% according to an Angus Reid poll released in March.

In Ontario, voters appear far calmer than in British Columbia. The contrast between Ontario and British Columbia over the looming imposition of the Harmonized Sales Tax (HST) is stark.

In British Columbia, people are protesting the new tax which will raise the price of many items. The protest against the HST in British Columbia has claimed a win with the resignation from the Liberal Cabinet by Blair Lekstrom, the Minister of Energy.

In addition, voters in British Columbia have rallied against the tax and reached the threshold needed for a special referendum on the HST. While the referendum is not binding on the BC Liberal Government, a failure to listen would likely impact the party during the next election.

In Ontario, opposition against the HST seems muted by comparison. Perhaps it is one of the indicators demonstrating why Western Canada has continued to grow, while Ontario has lagged in recent years. A key component for growth in the west has been the people are more engaged in what their governments do. In Ontario, it often seems that the idea of listening to the people is left to election campaigns in far too many cases.

In others, it is special interest groups which seem to capture the ear of the Premier more than the will of the people.

Now, it is likely that every sitting member of the Liberal Caucus in Queen’s Park would deny that statement, however as my grandmother used to say, “Your actions are speaking so loudly that I can’t hear what you are saying”.

Maybe people in Ontario have decided a collective “so what?” or are merely waiting for the provincial election next year.

Several First Nations have protested, the NDP have protested, and the Progressive Conservatives have protested.

The people in Ontario however seem almost resigned that the HST will happen. It is an attitude that likely has encouraged the McGuinty Government.

While in British Columbia, the Liberals are paying the price in the public opinion polls, in Ontario the McGuinty Government has yet to see lower poll numbers.

The latest Angus Reid Public Opinion poll in British Columbia show that the opposition New Democratic Party (NDP) is the most popular political organization in British Columbia. 46 per cent of respondents in the Canadian province would support the NDP in the next provincial ballot.

The governing BC Liberals are second place with 26 per cent, followed by the BC Greens with 14 per cent and the BC Conservatives with eight per cent.

It is entirely likely that in Ontario, the next public opinion poll will show a more complete picture of how the HST is impacting the political landscape.

Based on the sales job that the McGuinty Government is attempting right now to promote the HST, my guess is that people are not as happy as the government had hoped.

That of course is just my opinion, and as always, your mileage may vary.

James Murray