Public deeply divided on consequences of Campbell tax cut pledge - poll

News release

HEU public opinion survey shows significant upswing in NDP voter support

British Columbians are deeply divided over Liberal leader Gordon Campbell’s claim that big tax cuts will increase government revenue and won’t imperil funding for critical social programs like health care, according to a just-completed public opinion survey commissioned by the Hospital Employees’ Union.

Asked what was closest to their view, 45 per cent of the public agree with Campbell that tax cuts will stimulate the economy and increase government revenue to spend on programs like health care. But 42 per cent of British Columbians feel that tax cuts will reduce revenue and potentially affect health spending. The remaining respondents didn’t know.

“It would appear the controversy that erupted in the business community on this issue last week actually spills over into living rooms right across B.C.,” says HEU secretary-business manager Chris Allnutt. “The Opposition Leader’s position on tax cuts has huge consequences for the well-being of both our economy and our health care system,” he said. “As we head into an election, there must be a broader public debate on the matter.”

Detailed findings also indicate a gender gap on the tax cut issue. While a majority of men agree that tax cuts will increase revenue, women are much less convinced, says pollster Evi Mustel, whose company, McIntyre & Mustel, conducted the telephone poll of 409 British Columbians between Jan. 9 - 12. The survey results of the public’s views on a broad range of health care issues are considered accurate within five per cent, 19 times out of 20.

Meanwhile, in a sign the election fortunes of Premier Dosanjh may be on the upswing, 27 per cent of decided voters say they’ll back the NDP in a provincial election, while Campbell’s Liberals enjoy 51 per cent support. About 31 per cent of voters remain undecided.

“The boost in NDP support may be a sign that they’ve restored some public confidence in government management of the health care system, which is the number one issue for British Columbians,” says Mustel. “But future polling will verify whether the results are a temporary increase or solid gains,” she said.

Dosanjh has also erased Campbell’s advantage as the leader most trusted to protect B.C.’s health care system. The Premier was chosen by 32 per cent of respondents as best suited, while 29 per cent named Campbell. “This reverses a trend through much of last year,” says Mustel, “where Campbell was judged to be more capable of dealing with health care issues.”

Linked to the tax cut issue, the public also has very firm views on health care funding. More than eight out of ten British Columbians agree that health care spending must increase in the future. Of that number, 58 per cent are prepared to pay higher taxes to provide additional funding. And if funding isn’t increased in the next provincial budget, 78 per cent feel the system would deteriorate, with an overall 47 per cent indicating Medicare would deteriorate significantly.

Copies of the questions and detailed results are available on request from the HEU contact numbers below. The union will be releasing more findings from its comprehensive health care survey next week.

-30- Attached: HEU Public Opinion Survey conducted by McIntyre & Mustel, Jan. 9-12, 2001

For more information, contact at 604-734-3431: Stephen Howard, communications director (cell 604-240-8524) Mike Old, communications officer (cell 604-828-6771) Evi Mustel, McIntyre & Mustel, 733-4213

HEU Public Opinion Survey conducted by McIntyre & Mustel, Jan. 9 -12, 2001 (n=409) The polling questions: Some people argue that reducing taxes will stimulate the economy and increase government revenue to spend on such areas as health care. Others argue that any tax cut will reduce government revenues and potentially affect health care spending. Which view is closest to your own?

Cutting taxes will increase revenues 45 per cent Cutting taxes will reduce revenues 42 per cent Don’t Know 14 per cent

If a provincial election were being held tomorrow, for which party would you vote? IF UNDECIDED, ASK: Which provincial party that you would lean towards or tend to favour as of today? Of decided voters: NDP 27 per cent BC Liberal 51 per cent BC Reform 12 per cent Green Party 4 per cent Other 6 per cent

As B.C. premier, who would you most trust to protect our health care system? READ: ROTATE Ujjal Dosanjh 32 per cent Gordon Campbell 29 per cent Neither 9 per cent Don’t know/refused 30 per cent

Do you think that the amount of funding for health care in B.C. in the near future should be: Increased 84 per cent Remain the same 12 per cent Decreased 2 per cent No opinion/Don’t know 3 per cent

If increased: Would you be prepared to pay higher taxes to provide additional health care funding? Yes 58 per cent No 37 per cent Don’t know 5 per cent

If the provincial government does not increase health care funding in the next provincial budget, what do you think would be the impact on health care? Do you think the system would: Improve 1 per cent Stay the same 20 per cent Deteriorate 78 per cent Don’t know 1 per cent