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PMO too powerful, Canadians say Add to ...

Stephen Harper says the Senate needs reform, but more Canadians think that it's the Prime Minister's Office that has too much power.

With the Commons shut from December to March because Mr. Harper prorogued Parliament, a new poll suggests 42 per cent of Canadians think the power of the PMO should be trimmed.

The poll, conducted by Nanos Research, shows Canadians still feel the Senate has more power than it deserves but they are more concerned about the PMO.

"It's not just the usual suspects," said pollster Nik Nanos. "There are more Canadians that think the office of the prime minister is one of the parts of our democracy that requires a second look."

The Nanos poll found that 41.6 per cent of Canadians think the PMO has too much power, 40.4 per cent say it's just the right amount and 9.3 per cent say it has too little power.

If there's one institution that Canadians think needs more influence, it's the House of Commons. Only 13.3 per cent think the elected legislature has too much power and 20.3 per cent say it had too little. A majority - 54.6 per cent - believe it has the right amount.

The fact that the poll was taken when Parliament was prorogued - a step that has focused grumbling at the Prime Minister - probably heightened the feeling that the PMO has too much power, Mr. Nanos said.

The poll of 1,001 Canadians was conducted between Feb. 5-8. It has a margin of error of 3.1 percentage points, 19 times in 20.

More than any other, Canadians pointed to the PMO as the institution that has too much power in Canada - more than the Senate (33.4 per cent), the federal cabinet (24.7 per cent), the civil service (24.4 per cent), the Supreme Court of Canada (18.1 per cent), and the Commons (13.3 per cent).

Before merging with the Conservatives, the Reform Party fostered a movement for democratic reform in the 1990s that was to expand the power of MPs, create an elected Senate, and give grassroots voters more power.

The Conservatives have dropped most of that agenda, but Mr. Harper has repeatedly called for an elected Senate.

"If the Conservatives had their way, they'd be very narrowly focused on the Senate," Mr. Nanos said. "But if you ask average Canadians, it's not just the Senate that requires recalibration."

*******

OPINION POLL

Here is a list of institutions that make up our democracy. For each, tell us whether they have too much power, the right amount of power or not enough power.

Institution / Too much / The right amount / Not enough / Unsure

The Office of the Prime Minister / 41.6% / 40.4% / 9.3% / 8.7%

The Senate / 33.4% / 35.3% / 15.2% / 16.1%

The federal cabinet / 24.7% / 48.4% / 11.8% / 15.1%

The federal civil service / 24.4% / 42.2% / 15.8% / 17.6%

The Supreme Court of Canada / 18.1% / 54.2% / 17.5% / 10.1%

The House of Commons / 13.3% / 54.6% / 20.3% / 11.9%

THE GLOBE AND MAIL SOURCE: NANOSRESEARCH.COM

NOTE: RANDOM TELEPHONE SURVEY OF 1,001 CANADIANS, AGED 18 YEARS AND OLDER, CARRIED

OUT FROM FEB. 5 TO FEB. 8, 2010. ACCURACY + OR - 3.1 PERCENTAGE POINTS, 19 TIMES OUT OF 20. RESULTS MAY NOT ADD UP TO 100% DUE TO ROUNDING

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