Question number one. “Stephen Harper has been prime minister for almost three years. Under his strong and focused leadership, do you think Canada is on the right track?”
Question number two. “Stephane Dion has been leader of the Liberal party since December 2006. Some people say Mr. Dion is a weak and ineffective leader while others say he is just a misunderstood academic. Which opinion is closer to your own?”
Er, umm… can I think about that?
The more interesting question is just how bright does Canada’s Conservative Party brain-trust really think its own “donors and supporters” really are?
Those, in fact, were just the first two of 11 too-pitiful-to-parody, guess-which-is-the-answer-I-want questions the party’s campaign director, Doug Finley, actually posed recently in what he billed as a “National Critical Issues Survey” sent out to party supporters.
“The replies from our most dedicated supporters such as you,” Finley noted, “will be tabulated as soon as we receive them. I will personally share the overall results and any comments with the prime minister.”
I can think of a few comments I’d like him to share with the prime minister. Perhaps you can too.
The questionnaire, which appears to have been sent out just before the election was actually called, was made public today (Sept 15) by the Friends of Canadian Broadcasting, a national broadcasting lobby group. (Full disclosure: I am on the Friends’ steering committee.
The reason Friends is interested in the survey has to do with Question 5. “The CBC cost taxpayers over $1.1 billion a year. Do you think this is: a good use of taxpayer dollars,” or “a bad use of taxpayer dollars.”
And what do you think is the “right” answer to that question? But perhaps the more significant questions is the one Friends spokesperson Ian Morrison asked. “What is Mr. Harper's answer to this question?”
It’s a good question.
Harper has managed to almost totally avoid talking about his own plans for the CBC since his minority government took office. But he was on the record before he became prime minister as supporting funding cutbacks and commercializing public radio, if not for closing down or selling off the CBC entirely. So the survey question—and the answers from Finley’s trained seal supporters—may offer an unappetizing hint of what could be in store if Harper and his Tories win a majority.
But the CBC is not the only intriguing issue the survey raises— or perhaps more intriguingly, doesn’t raise—in its National Critical Issues Survey.
Defence spending? Do we want to “continue to purchase top-notch military equipment for our men and women in uniform” or do we want them to “make do?” Do we support the “Canadian Forces mission to help rebuild Afghanistan?” Are the Liberals “soft on crime?” Have human rights tribunals “overstepped their bounds?”
At the same time, aside from asking whether we’re in favour of the Liberals’ promise “to implement a massive new carbon tax that will drive up the cost of gas, electricity and everything else Canadians buy,” the survey offers no mention at all of what Stephen Harper’s government will do to deal with climate change or global warming. And there's nothing at all about health care?
If the Tories really are within striking distance of a majority government, those questions—and the answers—become even more important.
In his letter, Finley urged his readers—“our most dedicated supporters”—to respond because “people like you drive our policy development.”
Now I’m really nervous.