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Preston Manning up to more mischief

Preston Manning will just not quit. Out-maneuvered in his run for the leadership of the Alliance party years back, Manning was not going to abandon his life-time dream of turning back the social democracy that shaped Canada after the second world war. He knows that the political culture of a country is the landscape on which political power is played out and his institute, the Manning Centre for Building Democracy, continues his social engineering from the right. Democracy for Manning is American-style: free market democracy where the core value is property rights, and the key objective is less government.

His latest political gimmick was a poll, released a month ago, that purported, according to the headline on the Globe and Mail story, to show that "More Canadians [are] leaning right." His right-wing sidekick on this little project was the ubiquitous Allan Gregg, former Conservative pollster and still a man dedicated to much the same agenda that Manning is. He now works for the Harris-Decima polling outfit, one which all progressive Canadians should treat with great skepticism. Gregg is generally up to almost as much political mischief as Manning is and seeing them team up is no surprise.

Courtesy of some very politicized polling questions a survey done for the Manning Centre declared that "...while a majority of Canadians identify with the ‘centre' position on the political ideology scale, this centre is increasingly embracing ‘traditionally conservative values.'" Picking such a nebulous term as "centre" for a poll is highly questionable methodology. But it got worse when the question they asked (to prove the point about traditional values) was abortion.

Rather than asking Canadians whether or not they thought abortion should be legal and that deciding on whether or not to have a child should be a woman's decision, the Harris Decima Manipulators asked whether people thought abortion was "immoral." Thus the poll claimed 75 per cent of respondents feel abortion is "morally wrong." Rather than ask the question about its legality directly they asked respondents if they though the government should "regulate behaviour." Only 21 per cent of the new centrists said yes.

The poll also tried to portray Canadians' views about the role of government had changed radically. Carleton University's Professor André Turcotte (who partnered with Gregg) said "Canadians also appear to be losing confidence in government ability's to use social engineering to fix economic inequality in Canada." Canadians, said Turcotte, "...still believe we are our brothers' keeper but unlike a couple of decades ago, they don't think government can or should be the ones to reduce income inequality."

These conclusions fly in the face of other surveys -- ones that are much more probing and genuinely aimed at funding out what Canadians think -- not political hit jobs, paid for by Manning and his corporate backers.

Ekos research, for example, has been doing values polling for many years -- including surveys of ordinary Canadians and separate ones of the political end economic elite. Those surveys consistently show that while the elite values things like "competitiveness" and "minimal government" very highly, the rest of us put them at the bottom. Equality, social justice and full employment all ranked high for the unwashed, and rock bottom for those who rule.

In fact, it seems Ekos's President Frank Graves, one of the most respected pollsters in the country, was not impressed with the Harris-Decima results delivered to the Manning Centre. To see if he could replicate the allegedly anti-abortion results of that polling, Graves did a survey in March whose results were released April 1st -- just two weeks after Gregg's. The results showed that 52 per cent of Canadians describe themselves as "pro-choice;" 27 per cent were "pro-life;" 10 per cent said "neither" and 11 per cent chose "do not know or no response."

These are exactly the same numbers, said Graves, found in a poll with the identical questions asked 10 years ago. So much for the massive shift to the right. Ekos is going to continue to probe the conclusions of the Manning Centre survey. Said Graves:

"Since the publication of the Manning Centre study, Ekos has been updating a variety of indicators germane to the question of whether Canadian attitudes are indeed "blueing" -- or becoming more conservative. We are not yet in a position to consolidate our research, but the early evidence suggests that on issues of social behaviour, the trend seems to be, if anything, in the opposite direction. We will be submitting a more complete analysis in coming weeks but when measured over time, we have found that on indicators such as same-sex marriage, the decriminalization of marijuana, and capital punishment, Canadians' are becoming less conservative, not more."

The results will be out in the next few weeks. Bravo Ekos.

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