Skewed poll

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The late Dalton Camp held many controversial opinions about government policy, and nowhere was that more evident than on the question of deficits.

Deemed the consummate “Red Tory” for views that often straddled the line between conservatism and liberalism, Camp criticized former prime minister Jean Chretien’s obsession with cutting debt, saying it detracted from more important issues.

It’s a good thing few Canadian leaders took that advice to heart. Deficits are occasionally a necessary evil, but no one should underestimate the dangers of accumulating debt on the backs of taxpayers. (Cue the Muskrat Falls opponents.)

This week, the Canadian Union of Public Employees released the results of a poll they commissioned through Vector Research. It found that most people don’t support this province’s recent budget cuts, and that a majority would be fine with tax increases as a way to reduce the deficit.

The fact that most people don’t like government budget cuts is hardly surprising. Most people don’t like going to the dentist, either, but it’s a trip they will make nonetheless.

But the notion that most people support a hike in taxes seems utterly ludicrous. And if you look at the way the question was asked, you can see why the results may have been skewed.

Here’s the question: “Would you be willing to pay more taxes in order to help reduce the government’s budget deficit if you knew the tax increases will be shared by everyone?”

Now, everyone assumes they’re paying more than their fair share of taxes. So, if you pose a question like that, most will assume the extra burden will fall on those “others” who aren’t pulling their weight.

It’s telling that of those polled, people earning lower incomes were more likely to support tax increases, while those earning more than $70,000 a year were more likely to oppose them.

Overall, 59 per cent of respondents would accept the general premise of the question.

NDP Leader Lorraine Michael, echoing the Dalton Camp motif, said she doesn’t think the deficit is a big deal, and that the poll numbers seem to reflect the fact that people don’t buy the government’s explanation for why budget cuts were necessary.

“It is my experience when talking to people that if they see taxes being spent wisely and being spent for the common good and taxes being fair, they do understand the need for taxation and they understand why taxes may have to increase at certain points.”

This vague support for the principle of paying for services through taxation means absolutely nothing. When the rubber hits the road, no government earns brownie points by raising taxes. Even those largely unaffected will usually find a reason to complain.

Here’s the thing. People may say they don’t like budget cuts. But it’s not the idea itself they don’t like; it’s the potential reduction in services. And there are plenty of reasons to think some of the cuts announced in the spring were a little too deep and poorly thought out.

That’s the kind of argument people understand.

The only thing this poll achieved — given Michael’s reaction — is to further entrench negative stereotypes about the NDP.

Organizations: Canadian Union of Public Employees, NDP

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  • Dianne
    August 25, 2013 - 06:32

    Maggy, I wish i could agree with you, Concernig our provincial Liberal party. But i can't, As a long time supporter of the party, I lost all of my faith. Like many Newfoundlander and Labradorians,Cause on July 5/2013, everything change for me, when our freedom of choice was taken from us. Who should be our new leader, All because of a article on june 24/2013, by Charles Murphy of corner brook. Far as I'm concern this man should be in the race, No liberal will ever get another vote from me.Because one time our party was for the people, Now it base on control, and no respect for our people.

  • Betty
    August 24, 2013 - 08:45

    LOL...Maggy Carter,,You couldn't be at the debate that took place in Gander, Because that night each and every one of the candiadtes was spending money like going out of style..Yes the Liberal are the one's for the province of N&L...LOL..

  • Ata boy
    August 22, 2013 - 10:36

    I guess the Telegram has developed a bit of an expertise in how to skew polls.

  • John Smith
    August 22, 2013 - 09:06

    I, for one, can't wait untill the NDP are forced to bring forth their policies. They are on every form of media, everyday, constantly complaining, and whining, and pointing out all the woes we have here in the province. While some think this is the job of those in opposition, I would like for once to hear what they would do to remedy this never ending list of problems. It is so easy to go up in the polls when you have to make no decisions, no policies, just point out the bad, and then move on to the next rubber chicken dinner. The NDP would sink this province so far, so fast we would be left destitute within a year. People in the media treat Lorraine Michael with kidde gloves, I don't know why, but everyone is so accomodating when they speak with her. While the Premier is called to task, and lambasted at every chance... I only hope the voters of the province wake up to what an NDP government would mean to us...before its too late...

    • Joe
      August 22, 2013 - 13:47

      Kathy no one is forced to bring forth their policies. Geerome has told us that the Conservative Blue Book has nothing to do with how they will run the province after election. Kathy the ones complaining and whining are the voters. That's why you are so far down in the polls you can't see up. And Kathy don't worry about anyone putting the Province in massive debt. You have given the Province so much debt we won't be able to borrow again until 2100. But don't worry the voters have realized what yur party has done to us and will give you your reward.

    • Tony Rockel
      August 23, 2013 - 12:08

      I'm not a fan of any of the provincial parties, but I find it hilarious to see John Smith holding forth about the fiscal recklessness of the NDP, especially when he jumps at every opportunity to defend Muskrat Falls, the biggest and most insane money-pit ever to have been inflicted upon this province.

  • Maggy Carter
    August 22, 2013 - 08:27

    Sad but true. It is the reason that the Liberals and not the NDP will form the government after this province's next election. Ironically both the NDP and Conservatives will be knocked out of contention for the same reason. The Tories under Dunderdale have already demonstrated their absolute ineptness and irresponsibility in protecting the financial and economic integrity of the province. And Michaels has clearly shown her inclination to do exactly the same thing. The only difference is that Dunderdale is squandering billions on her friends in big business, whilst Michaels would do the same for labour and the public service unions. Too bad in the case of Michaels because she has positive attributes in areas where Dunderdale is a complete failure. But getting this province in over its head financially is what got it in trouble before Confederation - indeed it was the principal factor in forcing Confederation on us - and it was the biggest problem with the Smallwood government after Confederation. Somewhere there is a premier who is prepared to grow the economy on a sustainable basis but otherwise to live within our fiscal means. I'm guessing it will be Dwight Ball (who I think deserves the first chance) or alternatively Paul Antle.