WATCH: A new poll shows a majority of British Columbians and Canadians are opposed to a decision to remove a statue of John A Macdonald from in front of Victoria city hall. Fifty-seven per cent of those asked in B.C. and fifty-five per cent of all Canadians say it was the wrong move. But if you break down the numbers, it may not be bad news for Victoria’s mayor. Kori Sidaway reports.
It’s not often a municipal decision here in Victoria makes headlines across the country.
The decision to remove John A. Macdonald’s statue from Victoria’s city hall ignited a national debate on our history, reconciliation, and one of our first leaders legacy.
As Canada’s first prime minister, John A. Macdonald is credited for his role in building the country, but also oversaw the Indian Acts and established the residential school system.
Now, Canadians have weighed in on the legacy of Canada’s first Prime Minister, with a vast majority saying Sir John A. Macdonald’s name and image should remain in public view.
According to survey results released by Angus Reid Thursday morning, that view is held by a full seven-in-10 Canadians, compared to just 11 per cent that feel Macdonald’s name and image should be removed.
More than half of the Angus Reid respondents also say the country spends too much time apologizing for residential schools, with that view held by 57 per cent of respondents.
Just under a third of Canadians say “The harm from residential schools continues and cannot be ignored.”
It’s an issue that’s now front and centre in the Victoria mayoral race.
“It’s brought an unusually large amount of candidates from the fray to run for mayor,” said Royal Road’s political communication professor David Black.
Eight candidates are now in the running. As another candidate entered the fray this morning, Gary Beyer announced he was withdrawing, worried too many opponents would split the vote against incumbent Mayor Lisa Helps.
“I think in the end the statue issue may have hurt her in the short term, but may actually help her in the long term,” said Black.
“It makes the pool of candidates running against her large, that dilutes the opposition.”
Black says the controversy has made usually mundane municipal politics, exciting. He says the issue will draw more people to the polls, but won’t actually affect how people vote.
“Turnout is everything at the municipal level and because turnout is usually abysmal, if youth are in favour of the decision by the mayor, it’s likely to help her case,” said Black.
Municipal elections typically experience the lowest turnout of any level of government.
In Victoria’s 2011 municipal election, the total voter turnout was just over 17,000. 2014 had a historically strong voter turnout with 39 per cent of registered voters casting their ballots.
With even more people expected to hit the polls, and more candidates expected to run, and the strong NDP/Green-leaning on the Island, it seems it all may indicate this all would benefit incumbent mayor Lisa Helps.
But, her ground isn’t fully cemented.
“While this is an issue largely driven along political lines, there are significant numbers of people on the left side of the spectrum that are uncomfortable with the removal of the statue,” said executive director of the Angus Reid Insitute.
The Angus Reid survey says overall, 55 per cent of Canadians are opposed to the city’s removal of the statue, while 25 per cent said they favour the move.
In B.C., opposition to the statue’s removal is slighty more, at 57 per cent, compared to 25 per cent that agreed it was the right move to take the statue away from city hall.
Angus Reid reports more NDP voters agree with Victoria’s decision for the statue by a narrow margin, with 40 per cent in favour compared to 37 per cent opposed.
Conservatives are 81 per cent opposed and 47 per cent of Liberal voters are against the statue’s removal compared to 33 per cent in favour.
When asked if they were charged to make the decision of what to do with the statue, 44 per cent said they would put it in a museum with information about its history, while 37 per cent wants the statue put back in front of city hall.
Thirteen per cent would relocate the Macdonald statue to a different public place and six per cent would keep it in storage.
The report also shows the older survey respondents are, the more likely they were to say “Canada spends too much time apologizing for residential schools – it’s time to move on,” as opposed to the statement of “the harm from residential schools continues and cannot be ignored”.
Canadians between the ages of 18-34 split those views at 41 per cent, while 57 per cent of people between the ages of 35 and 54 said it’s time to move on and only 24 per cent of people 55-years-old and over said harm from residential schools continues.
More than half of Canadians feel there should be a commemoration to the legacy of residential schools, with 51 per cent in favour of a statutory holiday, and 53 per cent support a designated “day of remembrance” that is not a statutory holiday.