Tuesday, October 29, 2013

"Mike Duffy you rock!" ..... Ottawa that is

Senate expenses scandal eating into Conservatives' popularity in Ontario: Forum Research poll

A new poll suggests dramatic allegations from Senator Mike Duffy about PMO pressure and manipulation over a $90,000 repayment of his Senate expenses has cost Prime Minister Harper federal voter support in Ontario, the province where narrow victories helped give the Conservatives a majority government in 2011 and where the Conservatives are also pinning hopes for a second majority in the next federal election.

ByTim Naumetz
Tuesday, October 29, 2013
Prime Minister Harper, pictured in this file photo in Ottawa, is on the offensive over the Senate expenses scandal. (The Hill Times photograph by Jake Wright)

PARLIAMENT HILL—A new poll suggests dramatic allegations from Senator Mike Duffy about PMO pressure and manipulation over a $90,000 repayment of his Senate expenses has cost Prime Minister Harper federal voter support in Ontario, the province where narrow victories helped to gave the Conservatives a majority government in 2011 and where the Conservatives are also pinning hopes for a second majority in the next federal general election.

The Forum Research survey, conducted as a Senate drama over the allegations was raging last week, found voters who either supported the Conservatives or leaned toward them had dropped to 33 per cent in Ontario, with the Liberal Party eclipsing the Conservative party in the vote-rich province.

Mr. Harper (Calgary Southwest, Alberta) was facing criticism from within his own party over the government’s handling of the expense affair as the poll was taken and, in the House of Commons Question Period hot seat last Wednesday and Thursday, was grilled for more than hour over Senator Duffy’s account of how the PMO forced him to accept a cheque from former chief of staff Nigel Wright to pay off living expenses and per diems he had claimed over the past four years.

The Liberal Party under leader Justin Trudeau (Papineau, Quebec) climbed to 36 per cent support or leaning in the province, while the NDP and Thomas Mulcair (Outremont, Quebec) received support from 21 per cent of the respondents, who were asked which party they were most likely to vote for if an election were held today or which party they were leaning toward.

The latest decline in support for the federal Conservatives in Ontario puts the party well below the electoral support it garnered in the 2011 general election, when Conservative candidates were elected in 62 of the province’s 106 electoral districts with 44 per cent of the vote.

Boundary adjustments and redistribution because of population growth have created 15 new House of Commons seats for Ontario for a total of 121 ridings out of the 338 at stake in the next election.

“Federal elections are won and lost in vote-rich Ontario, and it appears the Senate scandal is eating into what used to be a Conservative lead in Canada’s most populous province,” Forum Research president Lorne Bozinoff said.

Forum Research conducted the telephone survey as Sen. Duffy, Senator Pamela Wallin and Senator Patrick Brazeau were defending themselves against three controversial motions the government moved in the Senate, which would spend them from the Senate for up to two years—until the next election at a minimum—over a total of nearly $500,000 in expenses that have been ruled ineligible by the Senate’s board of internal economy following an independent forensic examination and internal reviews.

Senator Duffy’s allegations, backed by email trails and other documents he has tabled in his defence, shook Mr. Harper and put into question his claims last May through June that he knew nothing about the $90,000 cheque Mr. Wright gave to Senator Duffy, with Senator Duffy telling the Senate the PMO and Mr. Wright had originally approved his expense arrangements while Mr. Harper later ordered him repay the money to appease the Conservative Party’s base of right-wing voters.

The Forum survey found a shift in support in Toronto and its surrounding cities, which will include 11 of the province’s 15 new ridings in 2015 and where the Conservative Party is hoping to grow support even further for the next election, having lost significant support in Quebec and the Atlantic provinces over the past two and a half years.

Forum sampled the opinion of 998 voters in Ontario, enough to give the interactive voice response telephone poll a margin of error of plus or minus three per cent, 19 times out of 20.

In the City of Toronto, 44 per cent of the respondents said they would vote Liberal or were leaning toward the party while only 28 per cent preferred the Conservative party. Twenty one per cent selected the NDP.

The Liberals and the Conservatives were tied at 36 per cent in the 905 area code of ex-urban cities surrounding Toronto, while the NDP got only 19 per cent of likely or leaning support in the belt.

A Forum Research survey conducted the day before the Senate expense debate erupted found the Conservatives still mired in fourth place in the province, below the Liberals, the NDP and the Bloc Québécois, respectively.

Earlier in the month, Forum Research found fully 52 per cent of voters in Nova Scotia would vote Liberal federally, with the Tories second at 26 per cent and the NDP at 19 per cent.


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