Friday, February 04, 2011

On minimal impact

I've noted before that despite having the resources of the federal government at their disposal for over five years, the Harper Cons haven't done much to actually change Canadians' minds when it comes to issues and values. And Dan Gardner confirms just how little Harper has done to convince anybody to agree with his conservative philosophy:
We all know the prime minister's take on taxes. "I don't believe that any taxes are good taxes," he famously said. Do growing numbers of Canadians agree? Hardly. In 2005, 72 per cent of Canadians said taxes "are mostly good," while 22 per cent said they're "mostly bad," and 5 per cent said "both" or "it depends." In 2010, the numbers were essentially identical.
Between 2006 and 2008, support for spending more on "liberal" priorities like child poverty, education, health, and job creation was high and steady. Between 2008 and 2010, it did tend to drop modestly. Support for more education spending, for example, went from 77 to 70 per cent.

Is that evidence of a conservative shift? I doubt it. In 2008, the economy tanked and the budget went into the red for the first time in more than a decade. A little retrenchment was to be expected. The same pattern can be seen in support for conservative spending priorities, after all.

And in absolute terms, conservative spending priorities have much less support.

In 2006, 39 per cent of Canadians said the government should spend more on the justice system; in 2010, only 24 per cent did. In 2006, 44 per cent of Canadians wanted more money spent on the military; in 2010, that was down to 26 per cent. In 2006, 38 per cent of Canadians wanted more money spent on domestic security; in 2010, 28 per cent did.

On the entire list, only one budget item saw its support grow significantly (from 24 per cent to 30 per cent) during the five years of the Harper government: Arts and culture.
For a rational person, evidence determines belief, not the other way around. And the evidence to date suggests Harper has failed to implement most of the conservative agenda, failed to push the political spectrum to the right, and failed to make Canadians more conservative.

He has done institutional damage, true, but that can be repaired. If Stephen Harper were to quit today, he would be remembered as a nasty but inconsequential prime minister.

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