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Election poll: Climate change, oil and gas shaping up as top issues

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  • September 11, 2019

OTTAWA -- Canadians want to have their cake and eat it too when it comes to preventing climate change and producing oil and gas, an Angus Reid poll reveals.

In a Sept. 5 poll, Angus Reid revealed nearly 70 per cent of Canadians see dealing with climate change as one of the priorities for the next government heading toward the federal election Oct. 21. Yet that same poll shows 58 per cent put oil and gas development among the priorities.

“While different Canadians may lean further to one side of the ‘economy-versus­-environment’ discussion, in most cases this does not mean they’d ignore the other side completely,” said the Angus Reid study. 

“Among those who said the next federal government should prioritize climate change efforts, three-quarters want at least some investment in the oil and gas sector. And among those who say the energy industry should have the next government’s main focus, four-in-five would still wish to see at least some investment in climate change efforts.”

When asked what the top issue is for the country, 33 per cent of respondents said the environment.

The poll revealed 25 per cent view the Conservative Party as the best to lead on the climate issue, followed closely by the Green Party (23 per cent), Liberals (18 per cent) and NDP (10 per cent).

“One of the most unfortunate things about the upcoming election is we may see another big divide in the country,” said Joe Gunn, executive director of the Oblate Centre at St. Paul University. In speaking with Oblates from Saskatchewan and Alberta, Gunn said he has heard about the hardship families are experiencing after job losses in the oil and gas sector.

 “Places like Saskatchewan and Alberta are concerned about fossil fuel development,” Gunn said.  “I would be surprised if Liberals win a seat in either of those provinces.

“We’ve had these kinds of divisions in Canada in the past, and they make it a hard country to govern,” he said. 

Gunn said the Oblate Centre will also be keeping an eye on issues such as the welcoming of refugees and migrants, poverty reduction and reconciliation with Indigenous peoples.

While Canadians are divided over the Liberal government’s carbon tax, with opposition highest among those who plan to vote Conservative, 54 per cent of Canadians say Canada should do more to meet the targets agreed to in the 2015 Paris Climate Accord. Canada remains unlikely to meet the targets agreed to by the Liberal government.

Polls show the election tightening, with the Liberals gaining on the Conservatives after dipping in the polls in the wake of the SNC-Lavalin scandal that led to the resignation of former Attorney General Jody Wilson-Raybould over pressure from the Prime Minister’s Office to grant the company a deferred prosecution on corruption charges.

While life issues such as abortion and euthanasia may not be top of mind for national pollsters, for Catholics like Alissa Golob, co-founder of It Starts Right Now, ensuring pro-life candidates are elected is a key priority.

“It’s going to be a very tight election,” Golob said. “The polls have the Conservatives and Liberals neck and neck. Catholic voters should first and foremost, not only vote for, but also volunteer for the pro-life candidates who have the greatest chance of winning, so we can tip the scale in their favour.”

While the Liberal and the NDP parties do not allow pro-life candidates or free votes on life issues, Green Party Leader Elizabeth May, while pro-choice herself, has said she would not prevent a Green Party MP from re-opening the abortion debate, although all Green Party candidates are vetted to ensure they are pro-choice.Peoples Party Leader Maxime Bernier has said he would allow free votes, but also that he supports abortion until the last trimester.

Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer has promised his government will not introduce legislation on abortion.

“The government means the 30 or so cabinet ministers and not backbench MPs,” said Golob, noting Scheer has defended “freedom of expression, and the right to bring forward bills that are important to them as well as free votes.”

Golob said she recognizes that no party has a majority of pro-life MPs, so consequently no prime minister could bring in legislation to defend life.  “That’s why it’s important to elect as many pro-life MPs as possible.”

Another Angus Reid Institute poll conducted at the end of August revealed 52 per cent of respondents were uncommitted to voting for any particular party. 

“Chief among the core issues for uncommitted voters: improving health care access and the transparency and honesty that they expect from a federal government,” Angus Reid said. 

The institute predicted both health care and ethics related to the SNC-Lavalin scandal will play a big role in the election, as will discussions of a proposed national pharmacare program.

Cardus Family will be watching for any party platforms calling for a national day care program, an issue that has been raised by several parties over the years.

“I haven’t seen it raised in a substantial way,” said Peter Jon Mitchell, acting director of Cardus Family. “It could emerge as an issue.”

A new study of Statistics Canada data shows Canadians rely on a variety of types of non-parental child care: 51.9 per cent use day-care centres or pre-school and 25.6 per cent  have a relative look after their child.

Despite child care policy being a provincial arrangement, the federal government has allocated a $7.5-billion transfer over 11 years to the provinces to fund only one type of centre-based day care.

“If you’re going to spend that money, put it in the hands of parents so they can choose the option that’s best for them,” Mitchell said. 

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