by Angus Reid | June 6, 2019 8:30 pm
June 7, 2019 – The squad of conservative provincial leaders grew in Canada this quarter with the addition of Jason Kenney in Alberta, supplying another voice to a coalition of premiers vowing to fight federal carbon pricing.
Kenney, who led his United Conservative Party to a majority government on April 16, is very much in the honeymoon phase of his relationship with Albertans – six-in-ten (61%) of whom approve of his job performance thus far.
Remarkably, three provincial premiers find themselves above the sixty per cent approval mark among their respective electorates. Time spent in office may have something to do with this. Indeed, five of the most popular premiers in the country are less than two years into their first term.
Albertans voted for a return to their long-held tradition of Conservative government at the provincial level, electing members of the UCP to 63 of the 87 seats in the province, and ending Rachel Notley and the NDP’s time in government after just one term.
Kenney’s first action as premier was to introduce the Carbon Tax Repeal Act to remove the consumer tax on gasoline and fossil fuel heated homes. The bill was passed and signed into law, foretelling perhaps a legal battle with the federal government, which reserves the right to implement its own carbon pricing mechanism in provinces that do not generate their own plan.
Kenney is joined by Canada’s most approved of provincial leader, Scott Moe (65% of people in Saskatchewan endorse his job performance, a six-point increase since last quarter), in his fight against the Trudeau government’s federal carbon pricing program. They have agreed to work together to appeal the carbon tax in federal court. In May, Saskatchewan’s Court of Appeal ruled in favour of the federal government on the issue, stating that the tax is constitutional. Minister of Environment Catherine McKenna called the ruling “a win for Canadians”.
Among Canada’s most approved of premiers, Quebec’s François Legault continues to enjoy strong support in his province, holding the approval of more than six-in-ten residents (62%) for the third-consecutive quarter since the election of the Coalition Avenir Quebec. This, while his party’s signature legislation, Bill-21, which seeks to ban religious symbols for public servants in positions of authority, inches closer to becoming law.
After his party’s first six months in government, New Brunswick Premier Blaine Higgs has found relative comfort in his minority government, with steadfast co-operation from three People’s Alliance MLAs. Higgs’ government has begun discussions about reviving the failed Energy East pipeline, and passed regulatory changes to open up shale gas development (fracking) in the province, something that has drawn protest from Indigenous groups. Higgs’ approval is above the majority line this quarter at 53 per cent.
Another premier very familiar with the inter- and intra-provincial tensions of the resource industry is British Columbia’s John Horgan. The NDP leader saw his government lose a unanimous decision in the B.C. Court of Appeal, which stated that B.C. does not have the right to restrict the flow of undiluted bitumen from Alberta. As Horgan’s government prepares to appeal the decision, he holds the approval of 52 per cent of residents in the province, unchanged since last quarter. Horgan is likely earning some good will based on his government’s recent announcement that it would be launching an inquiry into money laundering in the province, something widely supported by residents.
Manitoba’s Brian Pallister’s approval sits at 46 per cent. The Conservative premier has suggested that he may call an election soon, though not for at least several weeks. Pallister recently sat down with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to discuss approval of Manitoba Hydro’s proposed Manitoba-Minnesota Transmission Project. The federal government has pushed back the deadline to approve the project over concerns that Indigenous consultations were not adequately completed.
Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Dwight Ball managed to retain its government but lost its majority in May. In fact, the riding of Labrador West may have swung the balance of power in the province, after the NDP’s Jordan Brown won the seat by five votes. A recount continues to ensure that result. Ball’s approval this quarter is 37 per cent, a few points lower than the 43.9 his party received in the election.
Meantime, in Ontario, Premier Doug Ford holds the approval of just over one-in-three residents (36%) as he approaches one year in office. Ford has faced continued criticism over cuts to health care and education as his party tackles the province’s deficit. Ford appears to be retaining support among most of his base – he won 40.5 per cent of the vote last year – but is having difficulty growing his approval elsewhere.
The country’s least popular premier this quarter is again Nova Scotia’s Stephen McNeil. One of two remaining Liberal premiers, McNeil is at his lowest mark in nearly six years of tracking, at just 16 per cent approval. McNeil’s government has been at odds with the Nova Scotia Health Authority and the Teachers Union in recent months. McNeil is Canada’s longest serving premier and does not face re-election until 2021.
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