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Harper's base 'isn't as energized' on census, poll finds

Prime Minister Stephen Harper responds during Question Period in the House of Commons on Sept. 30, 2010.

Sean Kilpatrick/THE CANADIAN PRESS

Concern among Canadians over Stephen Harper's decision to scrap the mandatory long-form census isn't going away. In fact it is seeping into Tory ranks, according to a new poll.

The Angus Reid on-line survey also shows 53 per cent of Canadians believe the long-form census provides important information and should remain mandatory. This number has barely budged since the story broke in the summer; in July and August, 58 per cent of Canadians supported keeping the long-form census.

In addition, 49 per cent of respondents want the government to reverse its decision; in July support for that was at 52 per cent and in August it rose to 54 per cent.

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The online poll of 1,012 Canadians, released Wednesday morning, was conducted between Oct. 4 and 5.

Although the support for and against keeping the census falls along party lines, Angus Reid's Jaideep Mukerji is detecting some softness among Conservatives.

"Compared to other issues we've tracked recently, like the long-gun registry, I get the sense the Tory base isn't as energized on this issue," he said. "Whereas the long-gun registry highlighted division in NDP ranks, I find it interesting that nearly half of Tory voters (49 per cent) would support keeping the long-form census mandatory."

Mr. Mukerji noted that 41 per cent of Tories believe the government should reverse its decision.

"I get the sense the Harper government isn't on as particularly solid ground on this issue," the pollster said. "It will be interesting to see how they manage their messaging in response to the opposition's move to save the mandatory long-form census."

Indeed, the Liberals are keeping up the pressure on the government over its decision. Toronto MP Carolyn Bennett has a private member's bill calling for the census to be administered every five years. The threat of jail for those who do not answer the questions would be removed.

Conservatives, however, are sticking to their guns. A Hail Mary appeal by Canada's two biggest provinces and a House of Commons vote failed to shake the government from its stand that the mandatory nature of the census is too intrusive to abide.

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About the Author
Ontario politics reporter

Jane Taber is a reporter at Queen’s Park. After spending three years reporting from the Atlantic, she has returned to Ontario and back to writing about her passion, politics. She spent 25 years covering Parliament Hill for the Ottawa Citizen, the National Post and the Globe and Mail. More

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