Opposition to the Harper government’s planned Memorial to the Victims of Communism is staggering — with even the Prime Minister’s supporters strongly opposing its design and location, EKOS polling data shows.
Sixty-three per cent of those polled who intend to vote Conservative in the upcoming federal election oppose the memorial, a project of the Harper government that has been vigorously backed by senior Conservatives despite controversies about its location, its lack of architectural merit, cost and political symbolism.
“Rarely do you see an idea that’s so clearly opposed by the public.” – Frank Graves, EKOS
The iPolitics/EKOS poll shows that 77.4 per cent of Canadians strongly oppose the memorial and 82.7 per cent of residents of the National Capital Region (NCR) oppose it. In Canada and the NCR only four per cent polled strongly support the memorial.
Among non-Tory voters, 83 per cent who intend to vote Liberal oppose the project and 84 per cent of polled who intend to vote NDP oppose it. Among other supporters of national parties, opposition remains at the 83 per cent mark.
“Rarely do you see an idea that’s so clearly opposed by the public,” said EKOS pollster Frank Graves.
Government Out of Touch
NDP foreign affairs critic Paul Dewar, who has been among the memorial’s fiercest critics, said the new numbers only confirm what he’s been hearing.
“Most people, when they have learned of this project and where it’s going to be located and the process by which it’s been placed in this particular location, are against it,” said Dewar. “That’s a clear sign to the government that they’re out of touch with the public.”
The controversial 5,000-square-metre structure would be located between the Supreme Court of Canada and the Library and Archives Canada building.
Ottawa’s mayor, Jim Watson, criticized the location of the memorial and the National Capital Commission for not consulting with the City of Ottawa. Watson will be speaking to a motion related to the memorial at a city council meeting next Wednesday.
According to Graves, the “good news” for the government is that most Canadians are blissfully unaware of its plans to erect this giant monument on Ottawa’s historic Wellington Street. The controversial 5,000-square-metre structure would be located between the Supreme Court of Canada and the Library and Archives Canada building.
As the cost of the structure has ballooned to an estimated $5 million and the cost of the prime land has been estimated at $16 million, opposition to the project has galvanized.
“This location will skilfully occlude that despised institution with a huge celebration of things arguably dear to the government’s re-election plans and ideologically consistent with their cold war era views of Godless commies.” – Frank Graves, EKOS
In his analysis of the poll, Graves attributes the government’s determination to build the memorial on prime land that was set to be the site of a Justice Department building named after Liberal Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau to the Tories’ antipathy toward the Supreme Court (and communists).
“This location will skilfully occlude that despised institution with a huge celebration of things arguably dear to the government’s re-election plans and ideologically consistent with their cold war era views of Godless commies,” writes Graves.
The poll shows that 63 per cent of Canadians have not heard of the planned memorial, but 61 per cent of NCR residents are aware of the plans.
EKOS asked respondents to review the design, which will feature 100,000,000 “memory squares” each representing a life lost to Communism regimes worldwide, and to describe in one word (see below) their reaction to the memorial.
Respondents were also asked to rank the priority of a new facility in the NCR – and among options – the victims of communism memorial was dead last.
Graves suggests that the federal government “had best hope the deal can be closed on this before the election because given the depth of opposition we suspect there will be a groundswell of protest that will probably jettison this ‘unnecessary’ and ‘wasteful’ project.”
Graves said that the Harper government is trying to appeal to the Ukrainian and Polish communities, in an effort to secure their votes. The memorial’s significance to victims of Chinese communism has been blurrier, given the Harper government’s generally cordial relationship with Beijing.
“The Ukrainian and Polish population is sizeable and they have vey stark memories of victims of communism and have legitimate reasons that should be celebrated. The trouble is those thing happened in other counties at different times and they’re really not relative to most Canadians,” he said.
This study involved an online only survey of 2,116 Canadians. The field dates for this survey are May 12-19, 2015. The margin of error associated with the total sample is +/-2.1 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.
Published in Partnership with iPolitics.ca