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According to Amy Maguire at the University of Newcastle in New South Wales, on Saturday, October 14, 2023 : “Australians were asked to vote on whether to establish an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice to Parliament … as a means of recognising … the First Peoples of Australia in the Constitution.”

When this proposition was first advanced by Prime Minister Anthony Albanese’s new Labor government, opinion polls suggested that as much as two-thirds of the country was in favour. But opinion had changed by the October 14 referendum, after a tough campaign with the Liberal (read conservative) opposition aggressively opposing.

As of October 20, with 80% of the national vote counted, 61% had said NO and only 39% YES. And the progressive journalist Quentin Dempster moaned: “The 60-40 No majority on indigenous Recognition/Voice has branded Australia as a remnant racist British colony.”

The conservative businessman Robert Peake protested that Mr. Dempster’s reaction was “Wrong. On so many levels … Was just the wrong approach. Australians just don’t want a legislated advisory body representing a certain part of society enshrined in the constitution i.e. forever.”

Whatever else, the 61% NO vote on the Indigenous Voice does reflect a new conservative mood in Australia  — about a year and five months after Anthony Albanese’s progressive Labor party won the last Australian federal election on May 21, 2022.

Whatever else again, some similar conservative mood haunts the latest 338Canada “Federal Model” of Canadian polling opinion. If a vote had been held on October 15, 2023, 338Canada suggests, Conservatives would have won 194 seats in the elected parliament at Ottawa (albeit with a mere 39% of the cross-Canada popular vote!), Liberals 90 seats, Bloc Québécois 32, New Democrats 20, and Green Party 2!

There are as well a few thought-provoking comparisons between the current polling conservatism in Canadian politics and the Australian conservatism that forged the 61% NO in the Indigenous Voice referendum.

One part of the “remnant  racist British colony” critique of course involves racism. In a 2021 survey for the Australian Broadcasting Corporation “76 per cent of respondents agreed racial prejudice persists here.” And 46 per cent agreed that “white supremacy is ingrained in our society.”

In Canada we have never talked openly about anything quite like the White Australia Policy that governed immigration down under from 1901 to 1958. Canada nonetheless also had racially restrictive immigration policies in the first half of the 20th century.

Similarly, Canada may seem somewhat less racist than Australia on Indigenous issues, because the recognition of Canadian “aboriginal rights” in sections 25 and 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982 did not have to be approved in a popular referendum.  (As do all amendments to the Australian Constitution.)

On a related channel, Australian writer Andrew Gardiner has complained that after October 14: “Unfairly or not, we’ve been lumped in with the UK (Brexit) and US (Trump) as countries prepared to shoot themselves in the reputational foot to hang on to what’s seen as a chequered past.”

And this raises the question: does the new conservatism in Canadian opinion polls reflect any parallel passion for “a chequered past” in Canada?

On another channel again, Australian psychiatrist Patrick McGorry —  a passionate YES advocate in the referendum —  has compared the winning conservative NO campaign in 2023 to a similar conservative campaign against a proposed constitutional amendment for an Australian republic in 1999.

As Mr. McGorry has urged: “Same architect and playbook as the Republic referendum. Betrays the original wishes of most Australians. In each case Australia’s growth as a nation has been delayed.”

It also seems possible that the strong NO vote against the Indigenous Voice may stall the Albanese Labor government’s parallel plans to revive the Australian republic issue and end the British monarchy down under in the 2020s.

If the new Australian conservative mood won’t buy an Indigenous Voice, it may once again reject a new Australian republic. Meanwhile, the Justin Trudeau Liberals have already been almost surprisingly conservative on the future of the monarchy in Canada.

Finally, in Manitoba on October 18, 2023 — four days after the “60-40 No majority” on an Indigenous Voice in Australia —  the progressive New Democrat Wab Kinew was sworn in as the first First Nations premier of a Canadian province.

As Premier Kinew himself has urged, this reflects progress Canada has made in his and his father’s lifetime. It suggests as well that there remain at least some real differences between Indigenous issues in Canada and Australia in the 21st century.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by columnists and contributors are the author’s alone. They do not inherently or expressly reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of our publication.

In Canada as elsewhere autumn 2023 is a strange political time on various fronts. And it is not always easy to know just what to make of various opinion polling anomalies.

Take the case of two late September Canada-wide polls, broken down for federal parties in the third most populous province of BC, between the vast Pacific Ocean and the Rocky Mountains.

On the evening of September 28 the almost always interesting Polling Canada tweeted the BC provincial results of an EKOS federal poll taken September 19–24. As in the country at large this showed the Conservative Party of Canada (CPC) well out in front, with a remarkable 53% of the provincial vote. The NDP had 22% and the Liberal Party of Canada (LPC) only 12%.

At almost the same time, in the early morning of the same day Polling Canada had tweeted the BC provincial results of a Leger federal poll taken September 22–24. This proposed a rather dramatically different BC provincial picture: LPC 32%, NDP 30%, and CPC.29%.

With the confidence and supply agreement between Justin Trudeau and Jagmeet Singh in mind (both of whom have particular BC connections), these Leger numbers could be read to suggest that the province sometimes known as British California may have now become a progressive bastion in Canada, broadly comparable to Gavin Newsom’s California in the USA.

What all this could suggest about BC seems especially striking when set beside the Ontario results of the same Leger federal poll taken September 22–24: CPC 45%, LPC 28%, NDP 18%.

These Leger Ontario numbers look more like the EKOS numbers for BC. Partisans of the BC EKOS poll raise methodological issues with the Leger poll. On Twitter (now  X),  Polling Canada offers a methodological note on its BC Leger poll:  “Sample size = 141 Online.”

Several commenting tweets urge this size is just too small. Yet 141 would be BC’s approximate share of the Canada-wide population in a cross-country sample of 1,000 people. And the EKOS poll whose results Leger poll critics like better has a Canada-wide sample of 1,025.

Methodologically, Polling Canada just notes “IVR” on  its BC EKOS poll. And veteran polling guru Allan Gregg has quietly criticized “the interactive voice response (IVR) surveys that bombard telephone numbers with recorded questions which, quite frankly, isn’t any more scientific than … trying to stop people … on a street corner.”

Finally, in the technical rating of  Canadian federal pollsters proposed by physics and astrophysics professor Philippe J. Fournier’s 338Canada website EKOS gets B+ and Leger A+!

All this having been said, there does remain an obvious enough sense in which less than 150 observations is not a very good sample size for political opinion polling.

Yet the insurmountable general problem here is that cross-Canada samples large enough to provide seriously reliable regional results are prohibitively expensive. (The average country-wide sample size of the most recent half-dozen polls followed by 338Canada is 1,385!)

The typical smaller-number, less reliable regional samples in Canada-wide polls are sometimes intriguing — and even revealing. But regional inconsistencies in these cost-effective soundings of Canadian opinion at large are not unusual. It is almost always wise to treat regional results of cross-country polls with  grains of well-seasoned salt.

All this having been said again, there remains some further support for the Leger poll’s Canadian bastion of progress on the Pacific coast in recent polling on BC provincial politics.

338Canada’s latest model of a BC election held now shows the NDP with 71 seats, BC United (old BC Liberals) 11 seats, Greens 3, and Conservatives 2. In the early autumn of 2023 the progressive NDP BC provincial government  — under new leader David Eby, but in office since the spring of 2017 — is arguably in greater command of provincial politics than ever before.

(And, it is tempting to wonder, is this somehow related to the 2023 wildfires?)

The ultimate truth probably is that both the recent EKOS and Leger polls reflect different strands in the complex web of BC provincial and federal politics. Both clusters of regional opinion are out there in the wet coast air.

The big question for the near-enough future is no doubt which of the two rather different late September 2023 BC polling pictures  will prevail in the next federal election on or before October 20, 2025— EKOS’s conservative dominance or Leger’s progressive bastion? The answer could have something to do with the futures of both Justin Trudeau and Jagmeet Singh.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by columnists and contributors are the author’s alone. They do not inherently or expressly reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of our publication.

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The views, opinions and positions expressed by columnists and contributors are the author’s alone. They do not inherently or expressly reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of our publication.

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Well, it’s that magical time of year again, when we all hunker down in our homes in the face of yet another December COVID onslaught.

True this is somewhat depressing, but on the plus side the isolation gives us an opportunity to ponder things.

For example, right now, in the wake of Erin O’Toole’s disappointing showing, I’m pondering what it would take to create the perfect Conservative leader.

Yes, I know, this is a total waste of time, but hey, it’s a fun holiday exercise.

And right now, with everything that’s going on in the world, we need all the fun we can get, right?

So, let’s begin the frivolity.

First off, I’d argue the perfect Conservative leader would need a strong dose of former Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s sense of gravitas.

I say that because Harper’s strength as a politician was that he exuded seriousness; he actually had deep intellectual thoughts and was therefore able to offer leadership that went beyond vapid superficial glitz.

I mean, admit it, wouldn’t it be nice to have a political leader again who actually came across as an adult?

Of course, to complement his (or her) seriousness a perfect Conservative leader would also need to manifest former US President Ronald Reagan’s geniality.

Indeed, one chief reason for Reagan’s political success was that people tended to like him and people who liked him also tended to vote for him.

In short, likeability works.

Hence, the perfect Conservative leader would be somber, yet likeable.

Plus, in order to ensure he (or she) got a good hearing in Quebec, the perfect Conservative leader would also have to possess former Conservative Prime Minister Brian Mulroney’s fluency in French.

As a native Quebecor, Mulroney could speak the lingo with more authenticity than any leader who learned the language in French immersion classes.

Besides, as someone whose name escapes me once put it, “immersing yourself in the French language for more than five minutes can be fatal.”

At any rate, another quality a perfect Conservative leader would need in my opinion is the ability to brawl.

After all, politics is a blood sport and if you can’t duke it out in the political arena, odds are good, you’re going to lose.

Just ask Andrew Scheer or Erin O’Toole.

That’s why my perfect Conservative leader would also be imbued with former US President Donald Trump’s willingness to give as good as he got.

As a matter of fact, Trump is a master at concocting what American cartoonist Scott Adams called “linguistic kill shots.”

For example, in 2016 Trump brilliantly dubbed his Democratic opponent Hillary Clinton as “Crooked Hillary”.

Sure, it’s not exactly Disraelian-style rhetoric, but it’s effective.

And finally, my perfect Conservative leader would also have a strong commitment to a true conservative ideology, that’s to say a doctrine that stood for “more freedom”, “less government” and “free market” economics.

For this, he (or she) would have to be blessed with former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher’s personal courage and steely determination.

Recall, for example, how in 1980, when she was being urged by powerful voices to abandon her pro-free market agenda, Thatcher famously declared, “To those waiting with bated breath for that favorite media catchphrase, the ‘U-turn’, I have only one thing to say: You turn if you want to. The lady’s not for turning!”

In other words, just like the “Iron lady”, a perfect Conservative leader would bravely stick by his (or her) principles even if the political situation got rough.

So, there it is, that’s my recipe for a perfect Conservative leader.

Mind you, I’m under no illusions that the media would share my view.

In fact, if my perfect Conservative leader actually existed in reality, I’m certain the Canadian media would hate him (or her) with a red-hot intensity.

But then again, unlike the people who currently run the Conservative Party, pandering to the media’s prejudices is not my top priority.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by columnists and contributors are the author’s alone. They do not inherently or expressly reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of our publication.