CANADA/COVER

VOICE OF THE PEOPLE

ANDREW PHILLIPS June 15 1987
CANADA/COVER

VOICE OF THE PEOPLE

ANDREW PHILLIPS June 15 1987

VOICE OF THE PEOPLE

CANADA/COVER

A country’s constitution is its most important legal document, outlining the kind of society its citizens wish to create. Last week, as their leaders hammered out important changes to their Constitution

behind the closed doors of Ottawa’s Langevin Block, ordinary Canadians had no direct voice in what was being decided. But according to a poll conducted for Maclean’s just hours after the Meech Lake accord was signed, their first judgment on the outcome is generally positive. Just over half of those surveyed (51 per cent) said that they approved the terms of the agreement, while 27 per cent expressed disapproval and 22 per cent were unsure.

Detailed results of the poll, conducted by Angus Reid

Associates Inc. of Winnipeg on June 3 and 4, appear on the following two pages. It is the first national survey on the issue since the 11 first ministers concluded their deal in the early hours of last Wednesday morning. And it is the first measure of public opinion since former prime minister Pierre Trudeau dramatically pushed the issue to the forefront of national concern with his stinging attack on the Meech Lake accord.

Goal: Prime Minister Brian Mulroney almost certainly will welcome the main findings of the Maclean’s poll.

Mulroney made achieving constitutional reconciliation with Quebec a major goal of his government, and the survey shows that last week’s agreement is most popular there: 61

per cent approved the accord—the highest level of any region—compared to just 16 per cent who expressed disapproval. The lowest approval rating (46 per cent) was in Ontario—traditionally most supportive of strong central government.

The numbers are also favorable for Mulroney personally. Those surveyed were evenly divided on whether the Prime Minister handled the issue well—but pollster Angus Reid noted that that is a big improvement over the dismal approval ratings of 20 to 25 per cent that Mulroney has received in other polls. “Clearly, Brian Mulroney has gained some momentum out of this,” said Reid. “In the

The Maclean’s poll was conducted on June 3 and j—mostly before the speeches of the party leaders on national television—by Angus Reid Associates Inc. A representative sample of 1,008 adult Canadians was surveyed by telephone, making the national findings of the poll accurate to within 3.1 percentage points in 19 cases out of 20. Results for the regions have a greater margin of error due to the smaller sample size.

short run it’s likely to give the Tories a boost.”

For Trudeau, the survey’s findings were less encouraging. When he issued his attack on the accord two weeks ago, Trudeau immediately attracted enormous attention. But he attracted much less support for his position: fully 63 per cent of those surveyed said that Trudeau’s polemic did not change their views on Meech Lake, while just 17 per cent said that he made them feel more negative toward the deal and 12 per cent felt better about it.

Reid concluded that Trudeau and his centralist vision of Canada are out of step with public opinion, while the more decentralized model put forward in last week’s agreement has gathered considerable support. “I think we are dealing

with two paradigms of Canada,” said Reid, “and the Trudeau paradigm just does not appear to be where the Canadian people are right now.”

Still, the poll detected uneasiness about several aspects of the accord—and uncertainty about what it will mean for the country in the long run. The biggest single group of those surveyed (36 per cent) said that Canada will be better off, but more than a fifth (22 per cent) said that it will be worse off. And outside Quebec, fully 56 per cent disapproved of describing the province as a “distinct society.”

Reid noted that some of the uncertainty may be due to the fact that 65 per cent of respondents said that they followed the constitutional issue not very closely or not at all, with only seven per cent following it very closely. Despite last week’s blast of publicity, said Reid, “for a lot of the country there’s probably a big yawn over this.”

ANDREW PHILLIPS

THE MACLEAN'S POLL

The survey of 1,008 Canadians was Total West Ontario Quebec Atlantic conducted on June 3 and 4. The details: 1 The provinces will have a say Approve 71 73 64 79 68 in appointing Supreme Court judges and senators. Disapprove 15 16 21 8 11 Don't know/ 14 11 15 13 21 Won't say Future changes to federal inApprove 63 57 58 76 64 stitutions, or granting provincial status to territories, will Disapprove 27 32 33 15 23 require agreement by Ottawa and all provinces. Don't know/ 10 11 9 9 13 Won't say Provinces can opt out of new Approve 55 50 45 74 57 national programs and receive money from Ottawa for their Disapprove 34 36 43 20 34 own programs if they meet national objectives. Don't know/ 11 14 12 6 9 Won't say Quebec is recognized as a “disApprove 48 37 38 77 40 tinct society” within Canada. Disapprove 46 57 58 15 53 Don't know/ 6 6 4 8 7 Won't say Overall, do you approve or disApprove 51 47 46 61 57 approve of the new constitutional agreement? Disapprove 27 32 33 16 18 Don't know/ 22 21 21 23 25 Won't say Do you think that the accord Too much 35 47 46 3 38 gave too much to Quebec, just the right amount or not Right amount 27 20 23 42 27 enough? Not enough 10 2 4 30 3 Don't know/ 28 31 27 25 32 Won't say After the Meech Lake agreeToo much 25 28 35 12 18 ment is passed, do you think that the provinces will have Right amount 41 41 36 48 43 too much power, the right amount or not enough? Not enough 15 16 10 19 20 Don't know/ 19 15 19 22 19 Won't say

The Maclean’s Poll, cont. Total West Ontario Quebec Atlantic As a result of the agreement, Better off 36 34 32 44 39 do you think Canada will be better off in the long run, Worse off 22 28 28 9 14 worse off or unaffected? Unaffected 24 20 23 27 32 Don’t know/ 18 18 17 20 15 Won’t say Do you think English-French improve 21 16 20 27 27 relations will improve because of it, worsen or stay the same? Worsen 21 25 25 11 13 No difference 47 48 47 50 46 Don’t know/ 11 11 8 12 14 Won’t say Former prime minister Pierre Right 62 72 64 50 57 Trudeau publicly criticized the agreement. Do you think Wrong 32 26 32 37 36 he was right or wrong to speak out? Don’t know/ 6 2 4 13 7 Won’t say lt;lt; Did Trudeau’s criticisms make More positive 12 9 12 12 15 I I you feel more positive about the agreement, more negative More negative 17 20 22 8 19 or did they not affect your opinion? No effect 63 63 60 74 50 Don’t know/ 8 8 6 6 16 Won’t say Rating the performance of the political Icadis ers during the constitutional negotiations: • Prime Minister Brian Mulroney Approve 43 41 36 51 50 Disapprove 40 42 50 28 30 Don’t know/ 17 17 14 21 20 Won’t say Liberal Leader John Turner Approve 23 19 21 28 30 Disapprove 34 38 36 28 34 Don’t know/ 43 43 43 44 36 Won’t say New Democratic Leader Ed Approve 33 31 33 35 40 Broadbent Disapprove 20 24 19 17 19 Don’t know/ 47 45 48 48 41 Won’t say