Support for Bill C-51 tumbles in the face of increasing awareness

Support for Harper government’s controversial anti-terrorism bill has decreased from 82% a month ago to 38% as awareness of Bill C-51 increased, according to a new poll.

Half the respondents of the Forum Research poll opposed the bill, while 12% had no opinion of the legislation which 69% of those polled were aware of, with awareness highest amongst boomers (55 to 64 – 78%), males (77%), the very wealthiest ($100K to $250K – 79%), Albertans (80%), New Democrats (74%), and the best educated (post grad – 84%),

“It is clear that, now the immediate rush of anxiety over the October 22 attacks is over, Canadians are slightly less likely to see the need to alter the country’s security protocols,” Forum Research President, Dr. Lorne Bozinoff, said. “Voters are especially disturbed at the idea of legitimate activist groups such as environmentalists and First Nations being labelled and tracked as terrorist suspects, but they are no more comfortable with the fact parliament has no role in overseeing the activities of the security services.”

The poll shows clear disapproval of allowing security services to infiltrate and track environmentalists, First Nations and pipeline protesters with 61% of the respondents opposing the provision.

While more than half (52%) are not happy about the the lack of parliamentary oversight included in the bill, lack of requirement for a warrant or a judge’s permission to infiltrate, track or disrupt organizations the security services see as suspect is a more polarizing issue with 47% approving and 45% disapproving the provision.

Most respondents side with NDP on the question of how to deal with Bill C51 with 38% favouring the official opposition’s “fight the bill unless changed significantly” with 76% of NDP supporters agreeing with their leader Thomas Mulcair.
The poll suggests that Liberal leader Justin Trudeau’s support for the bill may be a political misstep, as only 34% support the party’s Liberal “support the bill but add parliamentary oversight” stance with only 45% Liberal supporters agreeing with the party.

The Conservative stance of “pass bill as written” has the least support with only 19% backing the Harper government’s approach with only 45% of Tory supporters siding with Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

More than 100 academics, four former Prime Ministers and scores of legal scholars have warned that the bill gives the authorities “extraordinary” and potentially unconstitutional powers with little or no oversight to target opponents of the government including environmentalists and indigenous peoples.

Protests were held in 55-cities across Canada last Saturday drawing large crowds demanding the withdrawal of the bill supported by Conservatives and Liberals and opposed by official opposition NDP and the Green Party.

Bill C-51 is currently at committee stage and hearings will continue when the House of Commons reconvenes on March 23.