Back to top

CAUT Bulletin Archives

May 2006

Poll: Harper Priorites Not Important to Canadians

Canadians don’t widely share most of the priorities of the Conservative government of Stephen Harper, according the latest public opinion survey commissioned by CAUT. The poll, carried out by Decima research just prior to the release of this month’s federal budget, found that almost 40 per cent of Canadians felt the first priority of the government should be to improve the health care system. Focusing on post-secondary education and research was the second most popular choice at 17 per cent.

By contrast, only 8 per cent of people surveyed identified tax reduction as the government’s primary focus. Tax cuts totaling more than $20 billion were the centerpieces of Harper’s May 2 budget.

“It’s remarkable how, aside from health care, Stephen Harper’s priorities just don’t have much traction with most Canadians,” said CAUT president Greg Allain. “That’s particularly true with post-secondary education, the second most important issue identified by the public, but which doesn’t even appear on the government’s radar screen.”

He noted that even on the issue of crime, a key focus of the Conservatives, only 5 per cent of Canadians said it should be the priority of the government.

In another major finding, more than one in three Canadians surveyed said the most important thing the government can do to improve our standard of living is to invest more in universities and colleges. Only 28 per cent said cutting taxes is the best way to boost living standards.

“It’s clear that the tax-cutting agenda of the Harper government isn’t over the long run going to sit well with a significant number of Canadians,” Allain said.

The poll, however, found that the Conservatives continue to hold a comfortable lead over the second-placed Liberals in popular support. If an election were held today, the Conservatives would be the choice of 37 per cent of decided voters, while the Liberals would garner 29 per cent support. NDP support stands at 19 per cent.

In Quebec, the Bloc Québécois leads with 43 per cent of popular support, followed by the Conservatives at 23 per cent and the Liberals with 20 per cent support.

The survey also found strong concerns among the public about the rising cost of tuition fees. Overall, 56 per cent of Canadians surveyed said tuition fees are too high. In Atlantic Canada, that figure is nearly 80 per cent.

Most Canadians also express strong support for university and college teachers. More than 60 per cent said they have a great deal of trust in academic staff, while nearly 60 per cent said university and college teachers are doing a good job under difficult circumstances. Almost half of those surveyed disagreed that academic staff earn too much money for what they do, while only 28 per cent agreed.

“We are very well trusted and respected as a profession,” Allain said. “We have no reason to shy away from standing up for the principles that we believe in because those principles are in fact widely shared and supported by the public.”

The survey, conducted for CAUT by Decima Research Inc., is based on interviews with 2,000 adult Canadians between March 23 and April 2, 2006. National results are considered accurate within 2.2 percentage points, 19 times in 20.