Justin Trudeau, Canada’s prime minister, waves during the end of a town hall event in Bellevile, Ontario, Canada.
The vast majority of Canadians believe it’s important for the prime minister to talk directly to Canadians – but when it comes to the meetings Justin Trudeau held in cities and towns across the country this month, more than half said it was a waste of money and meant to distract, according to an Ipsos poll conducted for Global News.
“Canadians obviously think this is an important thing for the prime minister to do,” said Ipsos vice-president Sean Simpson. “But the optics of the timing were not lost on them.”
So while 92 per cent of respondents said they see the significance of face-to-face meetings between the prime minister and Canadians of all stripes, 52 per cent said Trudeau’s tour was a waste of money and 51 per cent said it was concocted as a means to distract from other news.
Trudeau’s office announced the cross-country tour just as negative stories about his winter vacation were casting a pall over the prime minister.
Trudeau had been scheduled to attend the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, until news broke of his trip to a private island belonging to the Aga Khan – the multimillionaire philanthropist whose foundation receives millions in funding from Ottawa. That trip was cancelled and the cross-country tour was announced.
WATCH: Justin Trudeau addresses vacation on Aga Khan’s private island
That story, and the prime minister’s potential breach of federal ethics laws in accepting the invitation to the island, dominated headlines even as Trudeau launched into his spate of town halls and photo ops.
In an effort to help determine whether the tour was, in fact, a distraction, the pollsters for this survey first asked respondents on an open-ended basis to identify the biggest news story involving Trudeau within the last month.
Fourteen per cent recalled the prime minister’s Bahamas vacation, while 12 per cent recalled the town hall meetings.
“A lot happened this month … Fourteen per cent recalling one specific story is a significant chunk of the population,” Simpson said.
“But the town halls don’t just distract from bad news stories, it can also distract form positive stories.”
Other news events and issues recalled by at least five per cent of respondents included support for welcoming immigrants and refugees from the United States (10 per cent), Trudeau’s handling of U.S. President Donald Trump (eight per cent), oilsands and pipeline announcements (eight per cent) and his reaction to last week’s mass shooting at a mosque in Quebec City (five per cent).
WATCH: Justin Trudeau gets earful during cross country stop in Calgary
So were the early mornings and late nights all just a waste of the prime minister’s time and energy?
Not exactly, Simpson said.
“You can’t please everybody, so the goal of any political party is to please who you can,” he said.
Digging into the polling data by age shows millennials (people aged 18 to 34, whose votes were critical to the Liberal victory in 2015, according to several polls) were less likely than baby boomers and gen-Xers to say the tour was a waste of money (45 per cent to 54 per cent respectively).
The generational divide is even wider in terms of whether those polled believed the tour was created as a diversion; 51 per cent of boomers and 28 per cent of gen-Xers said it was, compared to just 42 per cent of millennials.
Similarly, there was a regional divide split among those who supported the Liberals in the election.
In Alberta, for example, 59 per cent respondents said they believed the tour was a waste of money while 62 per cent said they felt the tour was a diversion. In Atlantic Canada, meanwhile, the corresponding results were 43 per cent and 41 per cent.
“If you look at who had more positive views of the tour, you see millennials. Those who were less likely to be moved by the tour were older generations and Albertans,” Simpson said. “In other words, the half who think it was a waste are probably those who wouldn’t vote for the Trudeau Liberals anyway.”
Exclusive Global News Ipsos polls are protected by copyright. The information and/or data may only be rebroadcast or republished with full and proper credit and attribution to “Global News Ipsos.” This poll was conducted between Jan. 30 and Feb.1, 2017, with a sample of 1,001 Canadians from Ipsos’ online panel. The precision of Ipsos online polls is measured using a credibility interval. This poll is accurate to within +/ – 3.5 percentage points, 19 times out of 20, had all Canadian adults been polled.