Canadians leery of Stephen Harper's plan to spend a half trillion dollars on defence as national economy weakens

September 25, 2008 – OTTAWA – A new poll commissioned by the Rideau Institute reveals a high degree of public anxiety with Stephen Harper and his Conservative Party’s 20-year, $490 billion defence strategy, with half of Canadians supporting a reduction in this planned spending. “Canadians are questioning Conservative Party priorities,” concluded Steven Staples, President of the Rideau Institute.

“With storm clouds forming over our economy and federal budget surpluses vanishing, the next government will have to decide whether it wants to protect funding for social programs such as health care, or commit a half a trillion dollars to a new mega-defence strategy.”

“One in two Canadians (51.8%) would like to see the spending on Stephen Harper’s 20 year defence strategy reduced,” stated Nik Nanos, President and CEO of Nanos Research, the firm that conducted the poll. “Only one in four Canadians (27%) would like to see the plan continue as proposed, while one in ten (11%) would like to see defence spending increase. Ten percent of Canadians were unsure.”

In every geographic, age and party preference category, more Canadians prefer reducing planned Conservative defence spending rather than maintaining or increased it. Support for the reduction in spending is highest among Quebecers (62.4%); Bloc Quebececois supporters (72.9%) and Canadians aged 18-29 (56%). Slightly more female voters (54%) to males (49.7%) prefer reduced spending.

Such strong concern about increased defence spending may reflect Canadians’ uneasiness over the continuing war in Afghanistan. While military costs associated with the war continue to rise, so too does the human cost in terms of the lives of Canadian soldiers, military personnel and Afghan civilians. At the same time, cynicism is growing over the lack of positive results from the conflict as well as concerns over non-competitive government contracting for new military equipment.

“These numbers should be a wake-up call to all political parties to carefully re-evaluate their defence strategies, particularly when it comes to costing them out and funding them,” said Staples, “Canadians are paying attention”.


[Download the Nanos Research poll]

To arrange an interview or for further information please contact:
Steven Staples, Rideau Institute, c. 613-290-2695,

The poll results are based on a random telephone survey of 1,200 Canadians from September 20th to September 22nd, 2008. The margin of accuracy for a sample of 1,200 is ±2.8%, 19 times out of 20. For more information on polling technique please visit

The Rideau Institute on International Affairs is an independent research, advocacy and consulting group based in Ottawa. It provides research, analysis and commentary on public policy issues to decision makers, opinion leaders and the public. It is a federally registered non-profit organization, established in January 2007.

Tags: Defence policy