Federal election prospects stay strong for Liberals: poll

Liberals still lead in polls

Speculation about a fall post-pandemic election continues in Canada, as the vaccination rates increase across the country and the electorate gets ready for a glimpse of life after COVID-19.

All political parties have been busy with nomination battles and discussions about how to run their respective campaigns, if and when the writs are dropped.

When Research Co. and Glacier Media asked Canadians who they would vote for if the next federal election took place tomorrow, the Liberal Party remains in first place with the backing of 38% of decided voters, up one point since our last quarterly examination in March. The scenario is particularly bright for the Liberals in Atlantic Canada (49%), Ontario (42%) and Quebec (39%).

The Conservative Party gained two points to reach 30%, an important psychological milestone for an official opposition that was trapped in the twenties just a few weeks ago. Two concerns for the Tories are their third-place showing in British Columbia (27%) and seeing the Liberals with a 10-point advantage among decided voters in Ontario (42% to 32%).

The New Democratic Party (NDP) remains at 20% across Canada, with support climbing steadily in British Columbia (34%) and Alberta (25%). The Bloc Québécois and the Green Party are tied with 5% at the national level, with the People’s Party barely registering again at 1%.

This survey would point to a Liberal victory with the possibility of a majority government that would hinge on individual outcomes in British Columbia. In 2019, the Conservatives managed to defeat six Liberal incumbents in ridings located in the Interior and the Fraser Valley. Those seats could flip back if Tory support remains low.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s approval rating fell six points to 50%, but is still decidedly more impressive than the number posted by Conservative leader Erin O’Toole (34%, up one point). O’Toole has lost ground when Canadians are asked who would make the best prime minister. Trudeau is first with 37% (down three points), but NDP leader Jagmeet Singh is now in second place (17%, up five points). O’Toole is third with 12%, down three points.

O’Toole’s approval did not change markedly over the past two months – an issue that should worry Tory supporters. His rating stands at 36% in Alberta, a low number in a province where half of decided voters are Conservatives. There has not been a true identification between the party and its leader, although the prospect of a federal campaign that would feature rallies and live appearances could change that.

Another troubling matter is the gender gap. O’Toole’s rating among women is 30%, a paltry sum when compared to what Trudeau (52%) and Singh (51%) are getting. Among female decided voters, the Liberals hold a comfortable lead over the Conservatives (40% to 25%).

One issue that O’Toole does not currently have to fret about is the People’s Party. The approval rating for Maxime Bernier fell to 14%, with 52% of Canadians disapproving of his performance and 34% oblivious to it.

Singh will be headed to his second campaign as leader of the NDP. At this stage, his personal numbers are strong, with 51% of Canadians approving of his performance. He has overtaken O’Toole as the preferred head of government, but is still 20 points behind Trudeau. Even in British Columbia, where the New Democrats are outperforming all other parties on voting intention, Singh trails Trudeau on the “Best PM” question (35% to 23%).

The fortunes of the federal New Democrats are sometimes tied to the performance of their provincial cousins, whether in government or opposition. This might be partly the case in British Columbia and Alberta, but it is too soon to tell if this will result in more seats for the party. The fluctuation would need to be more dramatic for the New Democrats to defeat Conservative incumbents in Alberta. In British Columbia, the Fraser Valley turned its back on the BC Liberals in the 2020 provincial election. These same voters could be looking at the Liberals, and not the New Democrats, as the party that has handled the pandemic well and deserves their vote, at the expense of Conservative incumbents.

The Green Party, which recently lost one of its three Members of Parliament to the Liberals, can count of the support of 5% of decided voters across the country. British Columbia (7%) and Quebec (6%) are the two areas where the Greens are doing slightly better.

The next three months will be crucial for the realignment of the political battlefield in Canada, if indeed we are headed for a fall election. The Liberals will continue to tout their management of the pandemic, especially if stories about vaccine shortages disappear from the airwaves. The Conservatives will have to rekindle with voters outside of their areas of dominance and be convincing enough to reach those in their traditional base, who right now are not entirely convinced about O’Toole.

Mario Canseco is president of Research Co.

Results are based on an online study conducted from June 12 to June 14, 2021, among 1,000 adults in Canada. The data has been statistically weighted according to Canadian census figures for age, gender and region. The margin of error, which measures sample variability, is plus or minus 3.1 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

Les Leyne: Baby steps on the way back to normal

Baby steps to normal

Getting back to normal after 17 months of varying pandemic restrictions amounts to a giant leap for most people.

Just walking a grocery aisle whichever direction you want will feel unusual, let alone hanging out in crowds and dining out wherever you want.

So B.C. is trying to get there in baby steps, which is why no one is hollering “let freedom ring” this morning. The gradual four-step plan is probably as much to help people get used to acting normally again as it is to buy time to gauge any upticks in COVID-19 metrics.

The biggest change as B.C. enters “step two” today is the lifting of the hard ban on non-essential travel within B.C. The B.C. Ferries website collapsed within minutes of that announcement due to an instant surge in bookings.

That’s a strong clue about what broader travel will look like for the next year or more. Pent-up demand is likely going to crush every sector of that industry.

The other specific changes are relatively minor. The new limit for most public and or outdoor gatherings is 50. Bars can stay open until midnight. Banquet halls and theatres can step up or resume operations.

But as Monday’s advisory notes: “All other capacity limits and guidelines stay in place” unless noted otherwise. That includes the advisory against inter-provincial travel and a five-person limit on personal indoor gatherings.

Still, moving into “step two” is good news. The government was bent on capitalizing on it, so it took no fewer than four cabinet ministers, including Premier John Horgan, to announce the incremental change.

He said the government is taking the tentative steps in a way that “brings everybody along.”

“There are still people that are anxious about reopening; they’re concerned about the impact of too fast a return to normal,” he said.

Step two is tentative based on monitoring the case count, hospitalizations and immunization rate, all of which are trending well. The immunization rate stands at 76 per cent of all adults, but the percentage of adults who have had the required two doses is just over 10 per cent.

Any sudden surge in cases of the more virulent strains of COVID-19 could bend the trend in the wrong direction and change the restart plans.

It’s worth remembering the step two regime is essentially what was in place last summer, before subsequent surges of the virus derailed that first restart plan.

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry looked ahead at the cruise ship issue, about which Horgan has been criticized for neglecting and misreading.

The ships could eventually start sailing past B.C. ports after the U.S. dropped the need for a Canadian stop because the ports are closed to them until February, 2022.

Henry is part of a Canada-U.S. group discussing when the ships can return to B.C. She said it depends on strict guidance from the U.S. Centre for Disease Control.

“We do know that shared accommodations and particularly elderly people, which we tend to see among people who take cruises — it can be a risky environment. We’ve seen that in long-term care homes.”

Horgan said a lot of staff work is going on between B.C. and Ottawa about the ships and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is convening premiers Thursday to talk about how to re-open the borders.

Opposition B.C. Liberals later attacked his handling of the cruise ship controversy. During several heated exchanges in the legislature the Opposition said when they filed federal freedom of information requests for any B.C. correspondence about the issue, they got back nothing.

“There isn’t a single record of any contact between his office, his government and those federal authorities that he insists are responsible for this,” said Liberal MLA Mike de Jong.

Horgan said: “I’m not dismissive of the cruise ship industry or the challenge, I’m dismissive of the official Opposition. There’s a big difference.”

Facing demands to do something, he said it is out of his control. “There are no cruise ships going up and down the coast of North America today, and there won’t be for the foreseeable future.”

Les Leyne is a columnist for the Victoria Times Colonist

Op-ed: Action needed on ambulance shortage

Action, not rhetoric needed

B.C. paramedics and dispatchers are the pride of our province — frontline workers who dedicate their lives to keeping British Columbians safe and healthy. However, while we grapple with two of the worst health crises in our history, we are seeing a lack of government support pushing our ambulance service to the brink.

Over the past four years, our ambulance service has had to cope with growing challenges without the resources needed to keep up. Despite plenty of political rhetoric from the NDP government, their continued mismanagement of the service has left members feeling betrayed, as paramedics are stripped of their guaranteed callout wages and the ability to job-share, among other issues. Imagine being a single parent and having your job-share taken from you without notice, something that you rely on for child care and for work-life balance.

While government messaging hails dozens of new paramedic positions throughout the province, unfortunately these investments are not all the NDP makes them out to be. The full-time labour force remains understaffed and overworked, while casual employees are left to chaotically fill the gaps.

Daily, dozens of ambulances sit idle because BC Ambulance can’t find staff. According to Tony Clifford, the provincial president of the Ambulance Paramedics of B.C., on an average shift 20 to 25 per cent of ambulances are not staffed.

We have a problem.

The NDP’s failed leadership has taken its toll on the paramedics responding to the overdose crisis. Every year the opioid crisis is tragically getting worse and the COVID-19 pandemic has pushed an already strained BC Ambulance Service beyond the breaking point. Although we couldn’t predict the pandemic, the Premier had years to improve supports for paramedics struggling from overdose-related pressures but our government failed to act.

The result? Paramedic burnout, increased stress, dismal retention, and added suffering.

Ultimately, it’s the citizens of British Columbia who are left waiting longer for lifesaving care. In their time of need, our emergency health services can’t be where they are needed most.

When asked about this directly in Question Period in the B.C. Legislature this week, the NDP downplayed the problem. The Health Minister even seemed to characterize the growing issue as a blip caused by an unusually high number of calls. And while government has said it is aware of some of the challenges facing paramedics, it has offered little in the way of concrete solutions.

The same is true at our dispatch centres. BC Ambulance Dispatchers have equally struggled during these dual health crises. The pressure they face in understaffed dispatch centres, responsible for sending help out across massive provincial geographies, has led to the same challenges our paramedics face.

As the situation worsens across the province, it becomes clear that John Horgan and the NDP have failed the BC Ambulance Service, its employees and by extension, British Columbians.

We are calling on the Premier for real action. Rather than expressing empty political rhetoric, John Horgan needs to step up and provide adequate support to BC Ambulance. The citizens of our province depend and rely on our ambulance service to support them in their most difficult times of need, and it’s time for government to take action and ensure paramedics have the resources to answer the call.

Renee Merrifield
BC Liberal Health Critic and MLA for Kelowna-Mission

Poll finds widespread dissatisfaction with Canadian justice system

Unsatisfied with justice

Even in a year that has focused primarily on mitigating the COVID-19 pandemic, certain aspects of life in Canada must continue without restrictions. One of them is the judicial branch.

Recent events may have changed the way we look at justice in the country. In April 2020, Nova Scotians had to deal with one of the worst attacks in Canadian history. British Columbia has recently been the scene of a seemingly incessant turf war between gangs. We have also seen a disturbing amount of reports of anti-Asian racism in some municipalities.

Research Co. and Glacier Media asked Canadians about the current state of affairs, and the results are not particularly splendid. Across the country, just under three in 10 Canadians (29%) rate the justice system with a grade of 8, 9 or 10 – including 32% of men and 31% of those aged 18 to 34.

The proportion of Canadians who feel the justice system is excellent or very good is highest in British Columbia (35%), followed by Alberta (34%), Ontario (32%), Quebec (29%) and Saskatchewan and Manitoba (28%). The view is shared by just one out of four residents of Atlantic Canada (24%).

Our personal experience shapes our perception of the justice system as impartial. It is impossible to assume that all parties that have their day in court will be satisfied with the outcome, but some components fare worse than others.

More than two in five Canadians (42%) deem their last interaction with the justice system involving with traffic and bylaw issues, such as disputing a driving ticket or a parking violation, as fair, while 20% consider it unfair.

The numbers are similar for the last interaction related to small claims court, which includes unpaid accounts for goods or services sold. Canadians are more likely to say they were treated fairly (36%) than unfairly (19%).

When it comes to family court – entailing divorce, custody arrangements and spousal support – a third of Canadians (35%) say the system was fair, while 22% consider it unfair. There is a slight gender gap here, with 38% of women saying family court was fair to them, a view shared by 33% of men.

The situation changes dramatically when Canadians are asked to rate the criminal justice system. There is no longer a double-digit lead for the concept of impartiality. While 31% of respondents say their last interaction was fair, 26% consider it unfair – a sizable shift from what is observed on the other three categories.

Two groups are more likely to express dissatisfaction with their personal experience in criminal court: those aged 18 to 34 (32%) and those who voted for the Conservative Party in the 2019 federal election (31%).

Part of the problem with the dissatisfaction voiced on criminal matters is the assessment of an overly lenient judiciary. We learned earlier this year that 50% of Canadians would be willing to bring back the death penalty for cases of murder, including 57% of men and 57% of Canadians aged 55 and over.

Across the country, 61% of Canadians believe that when it comes to criminal cases, the justice system is too soft on offenders – a proportion that rises to 64% among men, 71% among Canadians aged 55 and over and 70% among British Columbians.

Some respondents shared why they have such bad memories of their last interaction with the justice system. “The mediation process was designed to force a solution quickly,” wrote a man from Alberta who felt he was treated unfairly at small claims court. “The company that wronged me got off easy.”

Canadians understand that these experiences are not unique. Almost four in five (78%) think the justice system needs more resources and that it takes too long to get cases dealt with.

Some dismay is saved for the people who are in charge of ensuring fairness. “The judge didn't even understand the case,” shared a man in Atlantic Canada. “The lawyer acting on behalf of the defendant lied in court and the judge overlooked it,” wrote a woman in Saskatchewan.

For a woman in Ontario who was dissatisfied with her experience in family court, the issue was monetary. “If I could have afforded a lawyer, the outcome would have been different,” she told us. This was echoed by the sentiments of a man in Quebec: “Justice is for the rich.” Across the country, seven in 10 respondents (71%) think the outcome of cases depends heavily on how good your lawyer is.

Still, the most poignant account came from a man in British Columbia who offered a summation of his disappointment with being treated unfairly in court: “I’m First Nations.” A majority of Canadians (57%) think the justice system has not done enough to address bias against Indigenous Canadians.

The survey outlines a country that does not have confidence in the ability of the courts to behave in an impartial manner. At this stage, sizable proportions of Canadians perceive the justice system as lenient, elitist, understaffed and prejudiced.

Mario Canseco is president of Research Co.

Results are based on an online study conducted from June 3 to June 5, 2021, among 1,000 Canadian adults. The data has been statistically weighted according to Canadian census figures for age, gender and region. The margin of error, which measures sample variability, is plus or minus 3.1 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

Christopher Derickson: Dark History or Present Reality

History or present reality

Since the news broke about the discovery of the remains of 215 Indigenous children at the Kamloops Residential School, I have been bombarded by texts and phone calls. Friends, colleagues, and political leaders have been asking, “How are you, and your community doing?” “How can we support you?”.

How am I? I’m angry, indignant, and perplexed as to why a country like ours; a modern day free, liberal, and democratic society tolerates the ongoing atrocious treatment of Indigenous peoples. I’m also surprised that this news came as a shock.

How is my community doing? We are heavy with grief, anger, rage, resentment, and indignation. We are trying to find a way to reconcile our existence as syilx people within a country that continues to ignore us. We are trying to find a way to heal, but the tether of historic unaddressed atrocities continues to haunt us.

So let me ask, how are you? How did you feel when you heard the news, what went through your mind? Do you, like our Prime Minister, believe that the discovery of 215 dead Indigenous children is “a painful reminder of that dark and shameful chapter of our country’s HISTORY?” Or have you finally come to realize that this is the PRESENT situation of Indigenous peoples in Canada? Are you finally waking up to realize that our free and democratic country still has racist legislation, policies, and political actors who continue to add pages to this “dark chapter”, unwilling to turn the page?

From what I can tell, Canadians are trying to find ways to move on from this dark chapter. I’ve been told that “how to be an Indigenous ally” is trending on the socials. But for how long? How long will this headline last? CBC’s The National did a segment on the ‘story’, and will likely do a few more. After all, they are our publicly-funded broadcaster and have a civic duty to do so. But, how long will this story last? How long will it take for the media and Canadians to predictably move on to a new headline?

Residential Schools are just one section of this chapter. Other sections we continue to write include the preventable deaths of Indigenous people in hospitals, child care, and RCMP custody. Let’s not forget the sections on the thousands of missing and murdered Indigenous women, deplorable incarceration rates, unlivable conditions on reserves, underfunded educational systems, and the ongoing and continued alienation of our traditional lands. I could go on. But I think you get the point. Most media outlets and Canadians give these egregious stories a few seconds of attention and move on. Meanwhile, my people continue to live with the daily reality of ‘Canada’s Apartheid’ (https://www.lapsuslima.com/canadas-apartheid/). Go read it. This is not history. It is our collective present-day reality.

We have known about the unreported graves. They have been documented in the findings of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Report and Calls to Action. Maybe it’s time you read it (www.trc.ca). My people, the syilx /Okanagan People, have known about these things for years. They pervade and still haunt my community every day. I feel for the survivors. They heard about this the same way we all did; through a press release. That moment, on May 28th will forever be etched in the collective memory of this country. I hope that the survivors and their families find a way through this. I hope we, Canadians, find a way through this.

Or will we fall in back into apathy and wait until the next news cycle and big headline to get another moment of public aghast hoping that one day things will change? I’m not an expert in social movements or mass societal change, but I’m pretty sure there is a better way.

So what can we do?

Let’s start with simply being human. Start with empathy. Take a moment to reflect on our present-day realities. Take a moment to remember the 215 children that never made it home. Allow yourself to feel what we feel; anger, indignation, and a deep uncommunicable empty sadness. Then, when you are ready, let’s turn the page. It’s time to heal. It’s time to change Canada.

This is our moment. It’s time to write a new chapter, nay, a whole new volume entitled Truth and Reconciliation. This is our country, we as individual Canadians hold the collective pen and have at our door step the opportunity to write a new narrative for future Canadians and Indigenous peoples. We must also demand accountability and reparations. We must also face the uncomfortable truths that have enabled centuries of genocide. In this new chapter, the humane treatment of Indigenous peoples is no longer a partisan issue. The mistreatment of Indigenous people is no longer an issue for debate. It is an issue we need to address. It’s time for governments, institutions, corporations, and individuals to act on the 94 Calls to Action from the TRC.

I believe that we can and must do better. We must build a better Canada, one that makes room for Indigenous peoples to BE Indigenous. We don’t want or need your permission to be Cree or syilx. You just need to finally acknowledge that we are here and we are not going to retreat into assimilation. We are going to take our rightful place in a diverse and rich Canada full of Indigenous languages, cultures, customs, traditions, and ways of being. A Canada that simply and honourably accepts that long before contact we were here. We will always be here.

Christopher Derickson is currently serving as chief for Westbank First Nation, one of the 17 communities affected by the discovery of 215 children buried in unmarked graves.

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