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Half of Canadians think the trucker protest is behaving badly, but understand their frustration: Poll

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As the trucker protest continues in downtown Ottawa, nearly half of Canadians say they agree with the frustration of the protesters but disagree with their behaviour, according to an opinion poll conducted over the weekend for The Hub.

Fifteen percent of Canadians strongly agree and 33 percent somewhat agree that they don’t like the protesters’ behaviour but understand their grievances, according to the survey designed by Public Square Research and Maru/Blue.

Canadians are also getting frustrated with the public discourse on the restrictions brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Sixty-five percent of Canadians agree that “it’s been hard to have a conversation about COVID-19 without people getting mad.”

A strong majority of Canadians are simply tired of the protesters, though.

As the Ottawa blockage approaches two weeks, 69 percent of Canadians agree that it “went too far and has gone on too long.” Sixty-four percent of respondents are concerned about the protest becoming violent and getting out of control and 59 percent say they are afraid of “right-wing extremists getting more power” due to the protests.

The poll also found that 51 percent of Canadians think we should “do whatever it takes” to shut down the protest, even if that means calling in the army.

The protest, which has set up shop in front of Parliament Hill, has been roiling Canadian politics and MPs launched an emergency debate Monday night to discuss it.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the protests have crossed a line and that he would offer federal resources to deal with the blockade in downtown Ottawa.

“This pandemic has sucked for all Canadians,” said Trudeau. But the protest “has to stop.”

Interim Conservative Party leader Candice Bergen said the country is so divided right now that “we are in uncharted territory,” arguing that Trudeau’s pandemic policies and rhetoric have made the problem worse.

The poll shows 52 percent of Canadians share Bergen’s concerns about the country becoming more divided due to the trucker protest.

Even with protests breaking out across the country over the weekend, most Canadians are still relatively content with the pandemic restrictions they’ve faced in the last two years.

While 23 percent of Canadians “strongly agree” that the pandemic restrictions “went too far and have gone on too long,” 58 percent either somewhat or strongly disagree with that statement.

Forty-six percent of Canadians say they no longer feel the same sense of pride about being Canadian, in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

One thing Canadians agree on is that it’s time to pump some money into the health-care system.

Eighty-three percent of Canadians agree that the system needs more money for beds to care for cancer and heart patients and that politicians should “stop using COVID-19 patients or protesters as an excuse.”

The poll was conducted using an online omnibus survey of 1,520 Canadians from the Maru Voice panel from Feb. 4 to Feb. 6.

Poilievre weaves between controversy and affordability as he declares his candidacy for CPC leader

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The starter’s pistol fired on the Conservative Party’s leadership race on Saturday when Ottawa MP Pierre Poilievre announced his candidacy to replace the recently-ousted Erin O’Toole.

Poilievre brings nearly two decades of experience on Parliament Hill and a reputation among Conservatives as a fighter and effective opposition critic, although he has been a polarizing figure since arriving in Ottawa.

“I don’t think controversy is necessarily a bad thing. I think any time you try to do anything significant in life you will face opposition to it,” Poilievre told iPolitics in 2017.

He has lived up to those words in recent weeks, taking to a highway overpass last Saturday to welcome the truckers convoy protest that has now overrun downtown Ottawa. Poilievre has been chatting with protesters and posting photos to his Twitter account.

O’Toole’s two-year tenure came to a close on Wednesday when his caucus used its Reform Act powers to vote him out as leader and appoint Manitoba MP Candice Bergen as the interim party chief.

Poilievre, who flirted with a leadership run in 2020 before ruling himself out, has gotten an early start on the race, announcing his intentions before the leadership committee has been struck and the rules decided.

In a three-minute speech accompanying his announcement, Poilievre weaved between cost of living issues and more contentious matters, like vaccine mandates and COVID-19 restrictions, promising both freedom from “the invisible thief of inflation” and freedom “to make your own health and vaccine choices.”

For years as an MP and opposition critic, Poilievre has criticised the government’s deficit spending and the “unprecedented money printing” at the Bank of Canada, tying that to daily affordability concerns.

“Over half of families now say they struggle just to feed themselves and more 30-year-olds live in their parents’ basement because they can’t afford the typical cost of home: $800,000,” said Poilievre in a social media video announcing his candidacy.

“Meanwhile, a small financial elite with access to all that printed money, buy up real estate and rent out to a growing class of permanent tenants. People who may never be able to afford a home,” said Poilievre.

In Friday’s episode of The Hub‘s Frum Dialogues podcast, Canadian author and thinker David Frum argued that home ownership should be the number one issue on the agenda of anyone running for the Conservative leadership.

“The Conservatives actually have identified the issue, they just haven’t got the key to turn the lock, and that issue is home ownership,” said Frum, in a conversation with The Hub‘s editor-at-large Sean Speer.

Housing affordability “is a huge issue and it ties to everything else. It ties to family formation and it ties to people’s optimism about the future,” said Frum, before encouraging the party to find policies to “build a nation of homeowners.”

Home ownership dominated opinion polls during last year’s federal election, especially among young Canadians, and with a provincial election looming in Ontario, the Progressive Conservative government has been looking at solutions that might lure voters.

Canada’s major urban centres are already starting to see the troubling effects of home prices that have reached double-digit increases in both of the last two years.

A report by the Toronto Star on the weekend found that Canada’s major cities are becoming increasingly childless as families are pushed out further into the suburbs.

Despite Toronto’s population increasing by about 12 percent over the last two decades, the population of children age four and under has declined by 11 percent. The regional municipalities around Toronto, like Peel and York, saw smaller declines while the far-flung commuter areas like Kitchener, Waterloo and Barrie saw huge increases in the number of children under five-years-old.

Experts have warned that the Liberal government’s plans for housing affordability could actually make this problem worse, leaving a big opportunity for opposition parties.

With a convoy of truckers protesting vaccine mandates still grinding downtown Ottawa to a halt and other protests breaking out across the country over the weekend, it will be difficult for any leadership candidate to shift the focus to other policy areas like housing and affordability in the immediate future.

That’s the kind of highwire act that will become routine for anyone vying for the leadership of a major political party, said Frum.

“You’re just Charlie Chaplin playing the waiter, taking a lot of plates through the revolving door, and you can’t afford to drop them. This is true for any party leader, but especially the Conservative Party leader, you have to be unity-minded and you have to remember how broad your coalition is. And you have to remember how broad the coalition you want is,” said Frum.