As the cost of filling the tank hits uncharted heights – and is predicted to go even higher – a wide-ranging survey conducted by the Strategic Counsel for The Globe and Mail and CTV suggests energy prices are on par with the sagging economy when it comes to Canadians' worries.The article doesn't discuss the effect of gas prices and the economy taking over the top two spots. But the difference between respondents more concerned with one rather than the other might also track potential voter pools for the NDP and the Cons.
The environment, last year's top issue, has been pushed to No. 3, with just 16 per cent of Canadians surveyed saying they now consider it their primary concern...
In Canada, 18 per cent of respondents said the rising cost of gas was the most important issue. That was equal to the percentage in this country who named the economy as their No. 1 concern. In the past three years, gas prices have rarely been mentioned by people surveyed by the Strategic Counsel; the highest number was 4 per cent in July of 2006.
After all, the Harper government's declaration that it isn't interested in dealing with fuel prices and other increasing costs of living to the extent they're cause by "market forces" would seem to leave the field wide open for the NDP to win over voters who rank gas prices as the primary concern. And given that a similar focus seems to already be working for the B.C. NDP, there's every reason for the federal party to figure it's best served keeping up the same focus.
Meanwhile, all concerns about plausibility aside, the Cons have tried to turn economic management into an area of strength, particularly based on their choice of attacks on the Libs' carbon tax scheme.
All of which suggests that the current parity in the top three issues may be matched by a similar level of opportunity for each of the parties to grab hold of the issue which favours it most. And if we're indeed headed for a fall election, it wouldn't be surprising to see the party which most effectively carries out that task winning the most support as a result.
Mind you, none of the party links will go without at least some challenge. The NDP will of course point its comparative track record on the environment, the "Tory times are tough times" line figures to be a difficult one for Harper to answer in trying to run on economic management, and the Cons have tried at least somewhat to take on the NDP's concern with gas prices.
But there's little indication so far that any of the parties have managed to prevent the others from branding themselves based on the three top issues of concern. And from here on in, the smart play looks to be for each party to push its own issue to the forefront, rather than getting caught up trying to challenge opponents' credibility on the others.