The Huffington Post Canada | By Eric Grenier
The survey, conducted online from April 14-15 and surveying 1,505 Canadians, found that 59 per cent of Canadians who said they were very or fairly familiar with the proposed legislation were opposed to it, an increase of three points since Angus Reid last polled Canadians on the topic in February.
Nevertheless, a majority of Canadians (69 per cent) said they were not familiar with the bill, including 27 per cent who said they had not heard of it before Angus Reid polled them. That did decrease by 11 points from February, however, as the number of people saying they were very familiar with the bill increased by three points to eight per cent, and the proportion who said they were fairly familiar jumped by eight points to 23 per cent.
There was an important difference in support for Bill C-23 between those who knew something about it and those who said they didn’t. And why not? It is called the “Fair Elections Act” after all. Whereas just 41 per cent of Canadians who said they were familiar with the proposed legislation supported it, 52 per cent who said they knew little to nothing about it were in favour.
One aspect of the legislation calling for stiffer penalties for those who break the law has universal support.
But opposition to “transferring the elections ‘watchdog’ responsibilities away from the Chief Electoral Officer” stood at 71 per cent among those familiar with the bill, an increase of 20 points since February.
Opposition to reducing Elections Canada’s public information activities was also strong, at 72 per cent (up eight points).
Angus Reid also asked Canadians what they thought about removing “vouching” as an option for voters without ID, and on this the Conservatives appear to be onside with public opinion: 59 per cent of informed respondents thought it was a good idea. Angus Reid did not ask this question in February, so it is not possible to know if opinion has changed on this particular issue.
What has certainly not changed is the credibility problem Tories have on reforming the Elections Act.
Fully 65 per cent of all Canadians, whether they knew anything about the bill or not, said they did not trust “the Conservative government to ensure Canada has the best elections oversight possible.” This was virtually unchanged since February.
And 72 per cent of Canadians familiar with the Fair Elections Act said that “the Conservative government is politically motivated” and “doesn’t like Elections Canada.” Only 28 per cent considered the bill a “genuine attempt to improve” elections in Canada.
This Angus Reid poll echoes the results of some other recent surveys, which have found that the more Canadians learn about the Fair Elections Act, the more unfair they consider it.
The Conservatives would be wise to heed at least some of these concerns.
Éric Grenier taps The Pulse of federal and regional politics for Huffington Post Canada readers every week. Grenier is the author of ThreeHundredEight.com, covering Canadian politics, polls and electoral projections.