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How does the majority view Harper’s environmental record?

Image by Now Toronto.

Image by Now Toronto.

It would seem a strong majority see Harper’s environmental record as an indictment of environmental destruction. The Globe and Mail is reporting on an Ipsos Reid poll that found 59 per cent of Canadians disagree the Harper government is “doing a good job in protecting Canada’s environment”.

But with a headline reading “Support for Harper’s green record appears to grow”, the newspaper frames this as, “The number of Canadians who believe the Conservative government is doing a good job of protecting the environment is inching upward, according to a recent poll… The poll found 59 per cent of Canadians disagree that the Harper government is ‘doing a good job in protecting Canada’s environment’, but that figure is four percentage points less than the same poll last year.”

But two things about this “inching upward” support. First of all, while the reporter doesn’t name the earlier number, the poll is simply telling us that 63 per cent of Canadians believed the Harper government wasn’t “doing a good job protecting Canada’s environment” last year and that figure is still a strong 59 per cent. And the last line of the article finally notes that, “The Ipsos poll was conducted online last week with a sample of 1,005 Canadians, and is considered accurate within 3.5 percentage points.”

In other words, a news story is made out of 4.0 percentage points in majority opinion in a poll that has a 3.5 percentage point margin of error.

The article also says that a minority of Canadians (41 per cent) believe the government is doing a good job of protecting the environment and that a similar minority (42 per cent) think his government has “struck the right balance” between economic growth and environmental protection, with the latter figure up five percentage points from last year from a dismal 37 per cent.

The article notes that this poll comes just after: Harper said it would be “crazy” to limit oil and gas emissions when the price of oil is falling and criticisms for inaction at the United Nations climate conference in Lima; as it becomes clearer that the Harper government will not meet the emission pledge it made at the UN climate conference in Copenhagen in 2009; and when environmental concerns continue to underpin opposition to pipeline projects (like the Trans Mountain pipeline and the Energy East pipeline).

Council of Canadians chairperson Maude Barlow could add more substantially to that list that, “Stephen Harper is systematically wiping out decades of environmental protections and laws in order to promote unbridled resource extraction. No other government in the history of Canada has declared war on the environment in this way.” She has cited key examples under the headings, Kyoto abandoned, The tar sands get big environmental and financial breaks, Water laws are gutted, Independent sciences takes a hit, Infrastructure is slashed, and The energy industry sets environmental policy. This can be read in full on pages 9-11 here.

So are Canadian voters seeing Harper more green this year than last year? Or is this just framing by a newspaper that endorsed Harper on the eve of the last federal election?

Remember that on April 27, 2011, the Globe and Mail editorial board wrote, “Only Stephen Harper and the Conservative Party have shown the leadership, the bullheadedness (let’s call it what it is) and the discipline this country needs. …Canadians take Mr. Harper’s successful stewardship of the economy for granted, which is high praise. He has not been the scary character portrayed by the opposition; with some exceptions, his government has been moderate and pragmatic. …Those who disdain the Harper approach should consider his overall record, which is good.”

The federal election is scheduled to take place on October 19, 2015.