The Weekly Writ for Mar. 29: Can a budget move the dial?
Plus, the non-impact of the Chinese election interference story, where things stand in Alberta and Manitoba and much more
Welcome to the Weekly Writ, a round-up of the latest federal and provincial polls, election news and political history that lands in your inbox every Wednesday morning.
It was budget day yesterday, a big day in political and media circles in Ottawa and a Tuesday in most of the rest of the country.
I kid — a little.
A budget is an important milestone in politics, acting as an opportunity for a government to set its course over the next year, lay out a plan for the future and try to reset whatever problems might be troubling it.
However, we shouldn’t over-estimate their political impact on the average Canadian. Certainly, budget measures can impact the lives of individuals in significant ways and promises of new measures can grab the attentions of voters. But grabbing a lot of that attention is tough.
Ahead of the 2022 federal budget last spring, the government’s regular polling asked Canadians if they could “name any specific measures that have been announced in the federal budget in recent years”. While nearly 10% could name “childcare issues”, 9% named “COVID relief spending”, 7% remembered something related to the environment, climate change or the carbon tax and another 7% said something about health care or dental plans, fully 59% of respondents couldn’t name a thing.
After the budget was announced, the government’s polling found that 48% of respondents said they hadn’t seen, read or heard anything about the budget. When pressed, one-in-five of those who said they had heard something about the budget were unable to say what exactly that was.
That doesn’t mean some things don’t break through — among those who did hear something about the 2022 budget, fully a third brought up housing initiatives, more than any other measure. That was the centrepiece of the budget and likely the one thing the Liberals wanted people to remember from it, but we’re still talking about one-third of one-half. The vast majority of respondents either listed something else or didn’t know what was in the budget.
Getting people to pay attention to politics is notoriously hard to do, so even that one-third of one-half is pretty good. There’s a reason political parties hammer the same message home over and over again — it’s the only way to make sure it gets through to a disinterested, distracted electorate.
Outside of an election or national emergency, a budget might still be the best chance for a government to get its message across. But a turning point or a reset? That isn’t easy to pull off.
Now, to what is in this week’s instalment of the Weekly Writ:
News of a vacancy in Ontario, three byelections in New Brunswick and a new Green leader in Manitoba.
Polls show no impact on Liberal support out of the Chinese interference story and provide an update on the races in Alberta and Manitoba.
Trudeau’s Liberals would be re-elected if the election were held today, while Alberta remains a toss-up and the Manitoba PCs are still on track for the opposition benches.
An open seat in Acadian PEI in this week’s riding profile.
Catherine Callbeck breaks the electoral glass ceiling in the #EveryElectionProject.
A milestone for François Legault.
Let’s get to it.