© Photo special to The Guardian
More than any other Atlantic Canadians, Islanders believe the Senate should be scrapped, according to a new poll.
Corporate Research Associates Inc. asked 1,500 residents of all four Atlantic provinces whether they believe the Senate should be abolished, become elected or remain unchanged.
The majority of P.E.I. respondents – a whopping 47 per cent – said they want the Senate abolished. This was the most popular option across the region, but P.E.I.’s percentage is highest.
Another 28 per cent of Islanders believe reforms should be made to make senators elected positions.
Don Mills, chairman and CEO of CRA, said this poll shows just how upset Islanders are with P.E.I. Senator Mike Duffy, who has been a central figure in the Senate spending scandal in Ottawa.
“It’s probably one of those things where Islanders are somewhat embarrassed by the situation and as a result, they’re taking a bit of a harder stand on it,” Mills said.
“They want to demonstrate that they’re not accepting of that kind of behaviour.”
In total, four in 10 Atlantic Canadians polled said they think the Senate should be scrapped, three in 10 are in favour of an elected Senate and two in 10 believe it should remain as it is. Just over one in 10 are not sure or did not offer an opinion.
Across the region, residents in Prince Edward Island, New Brunswick and Newfoundland and Labrador are most likely to favour removal of the Senate, while Nova Scotia residents are equally likely to support having an elected Senate or abolishment.
Twelve per cent of P.E.I. respondents said the Senate should remain at the status quo and 13 per cent did not know or did not provide an answer.
Mills said he believes these numbers suggest Atlantic Canadians are clearly unhappy with the status quo and want some measure of reform in the Senate.
“One of the things that I believe the Senate needs to do is prove its relevancy,” he said.
“Until they do that, Canadians will be wanting change.”
Change is exactly what the federal NDP has been pushing for all summer. NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair took his ‘roll up the red carpet’ campaign across the country, decrying the Senate and calling for its outright abolishment.
Newfoundland MP Ryan Cleary, who is chair of the party’s Atlantic caucus, said Tuesday he is not surprised by the results of the CRA poll.
“It’s reflective of the frustrations that I’m experiencing, that members of our Atlantic caucus are experiencing and have been hearing from people across the region. People are fed up with the Senate,” Cleary said.
He pointed out the Senate was originally established to represent and protect regional interests in Parliament.
Cleary does not believe this is happening under the current structure of the Red Chamber.
“These senators don’t represent the people. They represent the parties who put them there… the $90 million spent on the Senate could be put to better use.”
Cleary said Mulcair will continue to raise concerns over the Senate expense scandal in the House when it resumes later this month.
Later this week, CRA will release the results of another poll it conducted recently, asking Islanders whether they believe Duffy should resign his Senate seat.
The poll released Tuesday was conducted by telephone between Aug. 7 and Sept. 1, with overall results accurate to within plus or minus 2.5 percentage points, 95 time out of 100.