Thursday, January 19, 2006

Mood For Change

For all the talk about polls, for all the joy and fear partisans feel when the numbers go up and down, there is only one poll that counts. Besides the one on election day:

The federal Tories appear to have successfully framed the question Canadians will ask when they head for the ballot box on Monday, as an overwhelming two-thirds of voters now say it's time to change the government.

The finding comes as the Conservatives continue to hold a double-digit polling lead despite some tightening and apparent resistance from the Liberal stronghold of the Greater Toronto Area.

The poll, conducted by the Strategic Counsel for The Globe and Mail-CTV News, shows that 66 per cent of those surveyed say it's time for a change and a new government needs to be voted in, a number that has jumped from 54 per cent at the beginning of the campaign.

By contrast, only 24 per cent of Canadians say now is not the time for a change, down 15 percentage points during the same period.

This is the number that counts the most. When two-thirds of the electorate wants a change in government, there's going to be a change in government.

And this, despite the strongest economy and relative prosperity in years. What should have been the Liberals' trump card has become their joker.

Incumbent governments can turn back any challenge except this one. Even the most incompetent government can be re-elected if the electorate doesn't feel the need for change; the most capable government cannot survive if the electorate is raring to throw the bums out.

And look where the mood for change is strongest and weakest:

The desire for change has grown most in Quebec, where 83 per cent say it's time for a change, up from 59 per cent when the election was called.

"That's public opinion unanimity, for all intents and purposes," said Allan Gregg, chairman of the Strategic Counsel.

The desire for change is up across the country. However, the most resistant voters are in Ontario, where 54 per cent say it's time for a change, up just five points since the November call and flat since Christmas.

Ontario continues to be the Liberals' last bastion as voters in the Greater Toronto Area continue to support Paul Martin's party over the Tories.

Here's another element of an electoral realignment that only now is becoming apparent: the Toronto area is becoming as rigidly Liberal as much of Quebec used to be, and as solidly Liberal as Alberta is Conservative, no matter the consensus in the rest of the country.

Toronto's changing demographics have produced a changing attitude. A city full of immigrants, welfare recipients, criminals students, double income-no kids professionals, and what Richard Florida terms the creative class is going to naturally gravitate towards anyone who keeps the welfare flowing and rewards moral and ethical corruption.

Toronto is as alien from the rest of Ontario as San Francisco from inland California.

Don't expect this to change any time soon.

Source: Globe and Mail

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