A fractured Canada

Chris Roussakis/QMI AGENCY FILE

Chris Roussakis/QMI AGENCY FILE

Thane Burnett, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:55 AM ET

If Canada were a car in Neil Campbell's shop, the engine might turn over like a 2009 model.

And it would take a bit longer than expected to heat up - though perhaps that may have something to do with the snowstorm in St. Martin, Man., as Campbell works another day in a garage he opened a half century ago.

A major national opinion poll by Leger Marketing, for QMI Agency, has found Canadians are tepid in their optimism where the country is at right now - and where we're headed.

However, we all seem unified - from coast to coast - in a call for the federal government to immediately cut spending.

The less-than-glowing numbers show almost half of Canadians believe we're worse off than we were a decade ago, and the same number have called for a change in national direction.

"That makes sense to me," says 75-year-old mechanic Campbell, looking back just 10 years ago. "I know we're busier, but I don't know that we're making any more money at it."

While far from dejected, the northwest Manitoba garage owner isn't optimistic things will change soon. It's an opinion most Canadians — who saw their country fare better than other nations during the economic meltdown — share.

Leger opened the hood and checked the levels on a wide range of national debates - from military spending to support for the Alberta oilsands.

But it was the questions pinning down the mood of the nation that stood out for Leger executive vice president Christian Bourque.

"I'm a bit surprised there's not more confidence," he says.

The level of concern seems to rival 2009 figures, during the last days of the global financial crisis.

While Canadians can't agree on most issues - including whether each of their provinces is getting a fair deal within the federation - the majority said they want a 10% cut in federal spending.

Even Alberta (68%) and Quebec (74%) were largely eye-to-eye on that.

Economist Jack Mintz says Canadians seem to be saying to the federal government: "You've got to be more efficient - and not take it out of my pocket."

That means no tax increases, even on a provincial level, the University of Calgary's School of Public Policy professor adds.

Of the overall mood, Mintz says it may be born from concerns over retirement income.

"I think it's partly reflective that last year's financial markets didn't do that well," he explains. "A lot (of Canadians) want to make sure they have security."

But even security is a bit of a question in the Leger poll.

The federal government doesn't have a strong consensus on an increase in military spending. In fact, we seem to be split on the issue.

About half of respondents - the overall number was pushed up by Quebec (66%) - checked off the unfavourable box when it came to putting more dollars behind our troops. Though, in Alberta (46%), Atlantic Canada (45%) and a combined Manitoba/Saskatchewan (40%), those in favour of an increase outweighed those turning thumbs down.

When it came to our military protecting the Arctic, more Canadians seemed willing to call the troops to action (47% in favour while 28% were not in favour of the idea).

But pollster Bourque says the federal Conservative government will have to do a better job, when it comes to convincing Canadians of the need to put more money behind our soldiers.

Back in his shop, Manitoba mechanic Campbell says things cost more and the workdays get longer.

But still, 50 years on, he's not about to quit now — still loving his home.

"Not like you can just walk away," he notes.

It's hard to tell if he's talking about his service station or the nation it's planted in the middle of.

 

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Let's just put it behind us: Canadians

Some of the in-laws likely lost bets over it surviving. Past fights certainly shook the foundation of the house.

But the marriage is lasting -- and neither side wants a return to past days of bickering.

A new national poll for QMI Agency has found Canadians figure they're better off with Quebec remaining in the country, though almost all are tired of debating the complicated relationship.

Leger Marketing pollsters dug into one of the most contentious political issues in Canada, asking a wide range of questions on the state of Quebec within the country.

Christian Bourque, executive vice president for Leger Marketing, says: "The storyline seems to be the provinces are fed up with the debate -- as if Quebec will always whine a bit -- but (Canadians) don't want to see them leave.

"If Quebec were to leave, most people would find that a tragedy."

While fewer than half of Canadians felt Quebec's relationship with the federal government has stayed about the same over recent years, only 17% of respondents figured the province would ever break away and become its own country.

Only about two in 10 Canadians believe the nation would be better off if that were to ever happen, though almost 70% of those polled in Alberta thought the country would be as strong or even fair better if we were divided.

About three-quarters of those surveyed by Leger admitted they have grown tired of the national unity debate -- with the number 80% or higher in Western Canada.

Even the vast majority of Quebec residents - 67% - said they had grown weary of it.


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