Poll suggests voters agree with help for elderly, biz tax cuts

OTTAWA — Most Canadians say they don’t want an election this spring, but if there is one, there is some encouraging news for the opposition in a new poll.

OTTAWA — Most Canadians say they don’t want an election this spring, but if there is one, there is some encouraging news for the opposition in a new poll.

The latest Canadian Press-Harris Decima survey suggests Canadians are siding with the Liberals and the NDP on the issue of corporate tax cuts and help for the elderly.

The show of support for the NDP’s demand that the next budget include an increase in the guaranteed income supplement for seniors was the most striking, with 87 per cent of those polled backing the idea.

But even the Liberals can take heart that their demand the government back away from $6 billion in corporate tax cuts finds strong backing, with 59 per cent in favour.

Perhaps surprisingly, 59 per cent also want the government to raise the corporate tax rate.

The telephone survey of 1,000 Canadians was conducted in the first week of March and is considered accurate plus or minus 3.1 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

However, it’s unclear from the polling how much weight the electorate attaches to these issues, and whether the opposition parties could successfully exploit them in a campaign.

Pollster Doug Anderson, senior vice president at Harris Decima, said it’s more likely that while Canadians are indicating a preference, it may not be strong enough to switch their allegiance from one party to another.

“I wouldn’t think that any of them (issues) would become the trump card compared to other issues,” he said.

“Qualities of leadership, vision and values and performance — so far, those kind of issues weren’t asked at all in the survey and they do tend to matter,” he added.

The budget issues, however, are pivotal as to whether Canadians will go to the polls this spring, and likely would help differentiate the parties in a campaign.

The Liberals have been calling on Finance Minister Jim Flaherty to roll back $3 billion in corporate tax cuts that went into effect in January, and cancel a similar reduction for next January.

Meanwhile, the New Democrats say their price tag for supporting the March 22 budget and avoiding an election includes help for retired seniors and removing the GST levy from home heating, which not surprisingly gets 79 per cent backing in the poll.

Flaherty has steadfastly postponed the tax cuts, although he has given strong hints he is prepared to increase benefits for some seniors. The NDP estimates it would cost $700 million to raise benefits sufficiently to lift all seniors above the poverty line.

A clear majority of Canadians — 57 per cent — told Harris Decima they want the parties to work out their differences and avoid a vote.

In another finding, Canadians gave a Bronx cheer to the idea of federal funding for sports stadiums, both nationally and specifically for Quebec City’s new hockey arena. Even in Quebec, 58 per cent said there’s no place for the hockey arena in the budget.

The poll also suggests that while a majority want stimulus spending to be extended in the budget, an even bigger number — 69 per cent — think it is a good idea to trim costs at federal departments.