Mr. Harper's Dilemmas: What Canadians, Albertans Expect of their New Government



    CALGARY, Oct. 20 /CNW/ - Canadian voters have just made Stephen Harper's
task as Prime Minister much more complicated. That's the major finding of a
nationwide qualitative study of Canadian's hopes, fears and expectations of
the new government released by Ensight Canada.
    On Wednesday, October 15 Ensight Canada conducted a qualitative study of
primarily switch voters in Halifax, Quebec City, Toronto, Calgary and
Vancouver.
    "Canadians believe Prime Minister Harper has a mandate to lead," said
Jaime Watt, Ensight Canada Principal. "They've clearly told all of the
leaders, however, they want their concerns addressed in a spirit of
co-operation and respect."
    Participants in the Calgary sessions agreed with those in other cities:
the economy is by far the top issue. They believe Prime Minister Harper has a
mandate to act on this issue and they expect him to do so quickly.
    Expectations in Alberta for the Conservative government will be high.
Participants in Calgary viewed their province as a "winner" of the election.
One person said, "Now Alberta values will be more represented in the House of
Commons."
    The issue of energy emerged as an issue in Calgary. Participants
supported the Mackenzie Valley Pipeline, but not unconditionally with public
dollars. Support for nuclear power as a clean, sustainable source of energy
was expressed. Concerns about nuclear safety and waste were, however strong
among female participants.
    The Calgary participants - especially the men - were among the "greenest"
in Canada. General support for reducing greenhouse gas emission was strong and
many felt that an economic downturn should not be used as an excuse to lower
reduction targets.
    Albertans are very much aware of the regional tensions which exist
between them and other areas of the country, especially Ontario. As Mr. Harper
decides how and where a strained public purse will be spent, he will be
expected to do so in a way that is seen to be fair to all of the provinces and
regions.
    Among Calgarians, the research showed the spectre of the National Energy
Program haunts them still. Mr. Dion's Green Shift plan re-awakened those old
fears.
    Nationally, voter expectations present Harper with significant
challenges:

    
    -   A stretched treasury with exploding demands for financial assistance.
    -   Defending a possible deficit to a political base likely furious at
        the prospect.
    -   An expectation that he will deliver tough economic measures to help
        Canada weather this current storm, but do so "nicely."
    -   The need to re-launch his Quebec outreach efforts, at the risk of
        backlash elsewhere.
    -   Strengthening Canadian financial institutions when Canadians are
        convinced they don't need or deserve support.
    -   Defending his timing for an Afghan exit, when the surprising cost
        revelations have convinced Canadians that the mission should be over.
    -   Demonstrating his capacity to build consensus in a new minority
        government.
    

    "The next year will reveal if Mr. Harper is the strong leader in
difficult times that Canadians grudgingly chose," said Robin Sears, Ensight
Canada Principal. "To do that, he will need to overcome fate, economic gales,
and the opposition."
    "His critics are predicting a stormy winter ahead for the Prime
Minister," said John Weir, Ensight Canada Principal. "But throughout his
career, he has consistently proved his critics wrong."
    This project was sponsored by Blake, Cassels & Graydon LLP. Porter
Airlines provided transportation support.

    About Ensight Canada

    Ensight Canada specializes in government relations and stakeholder
management at the strategic level. Ensight Canada was created out of a
strategic partnership between Navigator Ltd and OEB Enterprise Inc, two of the
country's leading research, strategic communications and government relations
firms. Designed to serve clients in today's tough regulatory atmosphere,
Ensight Canada was created to provide clients with a team experienced at
delivering results in Ottawa, and disciplined by the new era of
accountability.





For further information:

For further information: Tyler Fleming, (416) 642-6122, (416) 899-5793
(cell), tfleming@navltd.com

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