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‘Superstar’ status in global economic poll strengthens Harper’s hand

A new international survey shows Canadians are in a very positive mood about the state of the economy, suggesting the opposition parties face an uphill battle pushing for change on the eve of a possible federal election.

Describing Canada as a "superstar," an Ipsos online survey of citizens in 24 countries finds 68 per cent of Canadians are feeling good about the economy. Those January numbers are up six points from a month earlier.

The contrast between Canada's positive mood and some other G8 countries is particularly striking. Only 20 per cent of Americans said their economy was good and even more pessimism was reported for Britain, France, Italy and Japan.

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Canada's results place it sixth of the 24 countries surveyed, behind Sweden (82 per cent); Saudi Arabia (80 per cent); Australia (78 per cent); India (76 per cent) and China (74 per cent).

Ipsos senior vice-president John Wright, who is based in Toronto and is responsible for the international survey, says the numbers are good news for the Conservatives because other surveys show Canadians give Prime Minister Stephen Harper high marks for managing the economy.

"It plays to [the Conservatives'] strong hand and more importantly it contrasts with an opposition party which doesn't seem to be on that track," he said in an interview. "The opposition – whether it be the NDP or the Liberals – are talking about things that are below the national concerns."

Mr. Wright said the Conservatives "own" the issue of the economy, placing them on very solid ground heading in to a possible federal election.

"It's usually governments are thrown out, they're not voted in," he said. The flurry of Conservative ads criticizing Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff have also proven to be "very, very effective," he said.

The counter argument is that when Canadians are feeling good about the economy, they may feel more comfortable about political change. But Mr. Wright doesn't think that will happen because the Conservatives poll so strongly on economic matters. "People may feel good, but they want to keep the goodness going," he said.

The international survey comes on the heels of a string of other polls suggesting the Tories have expanded their lead over the Liberals. The stronger numbers coincide with a large Conservative Party attack-ad campaign focused on Mr. Ignatieff and a $6.5-million taxpayer-funded government advertising strategy promoting federal tax cuts.

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The monthly Ipsos online surveys are drawn from a pre-approved pool of volunteers and are weighted to mimic the general population. This survey was drawn from a sample of 18,829 adults aged 18 to 64 in the US and Canada and age 16 to 64 in all other countries. About 1,000 individuals were surveyed in 14 countries, while only 500 or more were surveyed in Argentina, Belgium, Indonesia, Mexico, Poland, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, South Korea, Sweden and Turkey.

This survey asked participants to assess the strength of their economy nationally, locally and their expectations for the local economy six months from now.

"Canada is the superstar this wave, showing the highest cumulative growth on all three measures," states the Ipsos report on the survey. "After a dip in late 2010, Canada has rebounded to earlier 2010 levels by rising 6 points this wave to 68 per cent who give a positive assessment of the national economy. In fact, of all of the countries measured this time it's Canada that manages to score a trifecta by rising substantially in current and future assessments."

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About the Author
Parliamentary reporter

A member of the Parliamentary Press Gallery since 1999, Bill Curry worked for The Hill Times and the National Post prior to joining The Globe in Feb. 2005. Originally from North Bay, Ont., Bill reports on a wide range of topics on Parliament Hill, with a focus on finance. More

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