News Canada

Tory base questions Harper's credibility

By David Akin, Postmedia Network

OTTAWA - 

When Prime Minister Stephen Harper steps to the podium Friday night in Calgary and looks out over what is expected to be 3,000 delegates to this weekend's Conservative Party convention, he should know this: A lot of those people staring back at him are not sure if they can believe the story he has been telling about how Sen. Mike Duffy ended up with a $90,000 cheque from Harper's top aide.

That's one of the findings in a new poll provided exclusively to QMI Agency by Abacus Data.

In an online survey of 1,280 Canadians taken after Duffy's first bombshell speech in the Senate but before he disclosed existence of a second cheque in another Senate speech earlier this week, Abacus found that 45% of those who voted Conservative in 2011 are not sure whether to believe Duffy or the prime minister.

And while only 9% of Conservative voters believe Duffy's version of events and 46% believe Harper's version, the fact that nearly half of those who voted for Harper two years ago are no longer sure who to trust underlines what a big political problem the prime minister has on his hands.

"This is a troubling finding for the Conservative Party and demonstrates some potential for further damage to the Conservative brand if the controversy continues," said Abacus CEO David Coletto.

Abacus found that, among all respondents, 60% did not know who to believe; 22% believe Harper and 17% believe Duffy. About one in four of those who voted NDP or Liberal in 2011 believe Duffy's claim that officials inside the Prime Minister's Office put him up to accepting a "gift" and spinning a yarn about how he got it.

Harper's line has always been that the scheme was cooked up by his former chief of staff, Nigel Wright, Duffy and "very few people" in the Prime Mininster's Office, and that he was kept completely out of the loop. When he found out, Wright resigned to avoid being fired.

And though there are lot of sharp turns and complex twists to the Duffy/Wright affair, Canadians are paying attention to the story. About 60% say they are following the affair "somewhat" or "very" closely.

The poll was done in English and French Oct. 25-29. The pollster's method is widely used and, according to the industry association of which the pollster is a member, is believed to be capable of producing accurate results. Details can be found at abacusdata.ca.

Poll

If there was an election today, would you vote for Stephen Harper?


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