“Canadians ready to take in thousands more Syrian refugees: poll” (The Ottawa Citizen)

Syrian refugees arrive aboard a dinghy after crossing from Turkey, on the island of Lesbos, Greece on Monday. (Petros Giannakouris / THE ASSOCIATED PRESS)

Christina Spencer (Ottawa Citizen):

Unhappy at how the federal government has handled the Middle East refugee crisis, almost 50 per cent of Canadians want this country to take in thousands more displaced Syrians, exclusive polling for Postmedia suggests.

The telephone poll by Mainstreet Research, conducted just days after Canadians learned of the drowning deaths of two Syrian refugee boys and their mother, found 48 per cent of respondents wanted this country to accept at least 30,000 Syrian refugees. About 13 per cent of those polled suggested the correct number would be between 20,000 and 30,000, while 11 per cent felt Canada should take in 10,000 to 20,000 Syrians.

Thirteen per cent put the number at 10,000 or less, and 15 per cent of those asked simply did not know.

“Canadians clearly want to see more action taken on refugee resettlement,” said Quito Maggi, president and chief executive of Mainstreet Research. “These are significant numbers.”

The Syrian crisis has dominated the news — and politicians’ agendas — after stark photos last week of the body of Alan Kurdi, 3, lying on the shoreline on the beach in Bodrum, Turkey. His brother, Ghalib, and their mother, Rehanna, also drowned when their boat capsized as they set out for Greece. An aunt in British Columbia said the family had hoped to come to Canada. (The government noted it had not received a formal refugee application from this family, though it had received an incomplete application from the dead boys’ uncle).

Forty-four per cent felt the Canadian government had not acted appropriately in the case of the Kurdi family. Thirty per cent, however, felt it had; 27 per cent were unsure. More generally, forty-eight per cent of those polled did not think Canada was doing “its fair share” to address the refugee crisis; just 25 per cent felt it was, with 27 per cent undecided.

Since the photos were published, federal political leaders have scrambled to react.

The New Democrats want the government to bring in more than 46,000 government-sponsored refugees by 2019. Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau says Canada should take in 25,000 Syrian refugees before next year. The Conservatives have said Canada will take 10,000 Syrian refugees over the next three years, and have defended the ongoing bombing campaign Canada is involved in against Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria.

The poll asked how Canada could best contribute to alleviating the crisis. It found 58 per cent favoured either bringing in more refugees (31 per cent) or supplying more humanitarian aid (27 per cent). Just 18 per cent felt military force was the best option.

With the federal election campaign now ramping up for the post-Labour Day period, Mainstreet also asked how Canadians judged federal political leaders on the refugee issue.

Nationally, the NDP’s Tom Mulcair was thought to be the most effective federal leader to address the crisis (26 per cent), followed closely by the Liberals’ Trudeau (24). Harper was ranked third (21).

In Quebec, Mulcair was clearly thought best to handle the crisis, with 35 per cent viewing him as “most effective.”  Trudeau was favoured by 22 per cent, but Harper was at just 11 per cent — similar territory to that of the Bloc Québécois, which polled at nine per cent.

Ontarians saw Trudeau as most effective (29 per cent), with Mulcair and Harper tied for second (22 and 21 per cent respectively) on the refugee issue.

Maggi said Canadians’ responses to Alan Kurdi’s death and the crisis in general might prompt more of them to vote on Oct. 19. But he added that many of the attitudes reflected in the poll mirrored party lines and said the issue has likely not eroded the Conservatives’ support among their base.

Still, he added, it has been a bad period for Harper.

“There are all these issues that are adding up against the Conservatives — from the (Sen. Mike) Duffy sandal to the economic challenges that have come up in the last couple of weeks, and now the refugee crisis …  I think it’s just that much more issues that are adding up for Canadians who disagree with the current government. That’s why it provides additional motivation for them to get out and vote.”

Mainstreet surveyed 2,506 Canadian adults via interactive, automated telephone polling Sept. 4 to Sept 6, 2015. A mix of land lines and cellphones was used. The margin of error nationally was plus or minus 1.96 percentage points, 95 per cent of the time. (Regional margins of error were higher.)

For the full poll results, including questions, please go to: www.mainstreetresearch.ca.

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