Less culture war, more economy
The Liberals possess good fortune lately. A new poll from the Manning Centre found that 31% of a survey of 1,100 identified with the Liberals, 26% with the Conservatives and 18% with the NDP. What has further horrified Conservative pundits is that the Grits and Tories are statistically tied on the issue of economic stewardship–an issue the Harper government has tried to monopolize over the years. On other issues like healthcare and unemployment, the Liberals and New Democrats polled ahead of the Conservatives.
That’s not all. The Liberal Party has been moving in support of several issues, which have been staples of the ‘culture wars;’ pot, prostitution and euthanasia. With support for legalizing pot at 57%, an October 2013 survey of 1,002 Canadians found that 68% of them favoured euthanasia. Prostitution still remains less clear, as one poll showed that 60% of men favoured its legalization, while only 38% of women approved of such actions. The Liberal Party convention recently approved a policy that would see a new debate on implementing right-to-die legislation, coming as the Supreme Court listens to a new case on assisted suicide.
However, where do ‘culture war’ issues fit on Canadians perceived priorities? The top issue for 15% of those who responded to a Harris Decima poll was the economy, followed by healthcare at 11 percent, with the environment and employment issues following behind. Out of this list of ten top issues for Canadians, pot, prostitution and euthanasia were not listed as priorities. Think the person working overtime on the oil rigs or the 9-to-5-professionals are going to lose sleep over euthanasia? The Liberals must focus on issues that trouble more Canadians than culture war issues if they want to unseat Stephen Harper in 2015.
Yet Trudeau has given some indication of where he stands on the economy and healthcare. Going off a recent report suggesting the middle class is stagnating in Canada, he has indicated that he will not increase taxes on earners in this group, nor on anyone in general. He has indicated that he supports free trade and Keystone XL, two issues that the Tories can’t claim to be gatekeepers of.
The point is that the Liberals don’t have to grasp for straws. They’re tied with the Tories on the economy and are seen as a better party to manage healthcare issues. What Trudeau should focus on is sharpening his economic positions and developing his health-care policy. If they focus on issues like these over the next two years, they will be a redoubtable force for Harper and Thomas Mulcair. That said, commentators should be less gung-ho on declaring early winners, as pollsters from Alberta and B.C. found recently.