Mark Kennedy (The Ottawa Citizen):
As the Senate expense scandal hit a crescendo earlier this year, the Conservative government led by Stephen Harper commissioned a poll that revealed only about one-quarter of Canadians want the upper chamber abolished, internal documents reveal.
Instead, nearly a majority of Canadians surveyed said they would prefer to see the scandal-plagued Senate reformed — with changes such as elected senators and improved accountability.
The polling data Harper’s government received provides detailed information on what motivated Canadians’ views on whether the Senate should be abolished or reformed.
The national survey by Harris/Decima was commissioned by the Privy Council Office (PCO) — the central agency in the federal government that supported Harper when he was prime minister.
It was conducted May 20 to June 1 and was part of a larger research contract that included focus groups and which examined Canadians’ views on a range of issues — from the economy to terrorism. It cost taxpayers $149,976.
The poll conducted for the PCO found that 28 per cent of Canadians believe the Senate should be “abolished altogether.” Meanwhile, 49 per cent said it should be “reformed with changes such as elected senators and improved accountability measures.”
Eleven per cent of those surveyed said the Senate should be “kept as is,” and 12 per cent didn’t know or refused to answer.
The pollster asked Canadians who supported abolition what the “main reason” was for their decision.
Among the reasons: The Senate serves no purpose/is outdated/no longer necessary (34 per cent); it’s a “waste of money/taxpayer funds/a drain on the economy” ( 25 per cent); it is “corrupt” and involved in too many scandals (12 per cent); and senators are only appointed as a “political favour” (eight per cent).
Among those who preferred reform, some of the main reasons cited were: More “honesty/transparency/accountability is needed (21 per cent); we live in a democracy and should have the “right” to elect senators (13 per cent); the current system isn’t working and needs to be changed (12 per cent); the Senate “provides oversight/a check and balance system” and serves as a “sober second thought” (10 per cent).
The poll of 3,010 adult Canadians had a national margin of error of plus or minus 1.8 per cent, 19 times out of 20.