Author Archive: Felecia Lowe

Ontario Politics: Tories lead by 3; Ontario Liberals and NDP tied at 30%

With Ontario’s legislative assembly returning this week and the three main parties coming to terms with the results of the five by-elections in July, there has been some movement in vote intentions in the province changed.

Provide-wide, the Progressive Conservative Party has the support of 33% of committed voters, followed by the Liberals and NDP at 30% respectively.  Since May, the Tories are down a marginal one point, while the Liberals are down four points and the NDP is up five points.  The Green Party is at 5% while 15% of respondents were undecided.

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Provincial politics in Ontario appear to be in a stalemate with none of the three major parties well positioned to win a provincial election.  However, the results suggest that the Ontario NDP and its leader Andrea Horwath have the greatest opportunity to expand its support since Horwath is the most popular provincial leader and its potential pool of support is equivalent to the Liberals (45% would consider voting NDP and Liberal) and higher than the PC Party (42% would consider voting PC).

Provincial Vote Intention

Since early May, the Ontario Liberal Party’s support among decided voters in the province is down four points to 30% with the PC Party now ahead by three points among committed voters.  The NDP’s slide has been reversed with the third party gaining five points and moving into a tie with the Liberals for second place at 30%.

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Regionally,  the once commanding 16-point lead in Metro Toronto for the Liberals has been reduced to eight points (OLP 41%, NDP 33%, PC 24%) while in the Greater Toronto/Hamilton/Niagara region surrounding Toronto the PCs have opened up a nine point lead over the Liberals leading 40% to 31% among committed voters.  The NDP is well back in third at 24% in the surrounding region around Toronto.

The PCs have a significant 10-point lead in eastern Ontario (PCs 39%, OLP 29%, NDP 25%) while the NDP, coming off two by-election wins in Windsor and London have a marginal lead in southwestern Ontario, leading the Tories by four points (NDP 37%, PC 33%, OLP 23%).

In Northern Ontario, the NDP leads the Liberals by 27-points, 55% to 28% with the PCs running well back at 6%.  However, due to a small sample size in the North, readers who use caution when making conclusions about support in the region.

In terms of demographics, the PCs have a three-point lead over the Liberals among men (PC 35%, OLP 32%, NDP 26%), while the NDP has opened up a four point lead over the PCs among women with the Liberals falling from first to third among female voters (NDP 35%, PC 31%, Liberal 29%).

The NDP is strongest among voters aged 18 to 29, leading the Liberals by 15 points while the Liberals lead among those aged 30 to 44 (OLP 34%, NDP 30%, PC 25%).  Among older Ontarians, the PCs lead holding an 11-point lead among those aged 45 to 59 and a six-point lead among those aged 60 and over.

Top Provincial Issues

Respondents were shown a list of 18 issues and were asked to select the top three that were most important to them personally.  Overall, there has been a slight shift in the priorities of Ontarians since May.  Job creation is down nine points (from 39% to 30%) while debt and deficit has increased by five points from (25% to 30%) in the past four months.

The top five issues ranked by respondents in order are:

  • Accountability in government (33%),
  • Health care wait times (32%)
  • Deficit and debt (30%)J
  • Job creation (30%)
  • Gas prices (23%)

The table below reports the results of the top issue question by current party supporters, with the coloured boxes highlighting which issues supporters of each party were most likely to rank as important

Slide1 

Profiling Support of Party Leaders

When respondents were asked to rate their personal impressions of the leaders of the main Ontario political parties, only Andrea Horwath registered a net positive impression score.  This represents a measurable shift in the perceptive landscape from May 2013, when Liberal leader Kathleen Wynne held the highest positive score of the three major leaders.

As the Liberal honeymoon with Kathleen Wynne comes to an end, her positive score slipped by three percentage points from May, dropping down to 31%.  Meanwhile, Andrea Horwath’s positive numbers jumped by five percentage points over the same period to 38%, making her the only leader tested with a net positive score.

With these observed shifts in net positive scores, both Kathleen Wynne and Andrea Horvath are in a precarious position, each with relatively high positive scores from those who voted for the others’ party in 2011.  Kathleen Wynne was just as likely to be seen in a positive light (31%) by NDP supporters as her overall figure, while 36% of past Liberal voters held positive impressions of Andrea Horwath.  Although these tracking figures suggest that the many burdens carried by the Ontario Liberal Party may be too much for Kathleen Wynne to overcome, the status of the provincial economy may be the deciding factor for voters migrating from the NDP base.

Although his negative numbers have dropped slightly since May, Tim Hudak remains the least liked of the three major party leaders.  Almost a majority of Ontarians have a negative impression of the Leader of the Opposition (42%) while only 20% view him positively. Those who view the PC Leader positively are almost exclusively those who voted PC in 2011 with only 10% of past Liberal and NDP Party supporters saying they have a positive impression of Hudak.  If leadership becomes a primary driver for voting behaviour, these numbers indicate why the PCs will continue to have a difficult time expanding support beyond their 2011 level.

Slide4 

Leadership Attributes

Survey respondents were also asked whether a number of attributes accurately described each of the three main party leaders in Ontario.  Figures in brackets track the change since May 2013.

Overall, Kathleen Wynne has suffered a weakening of her personal brand.  Since May, every one of her tracked qualities has moved in a negative direction, most notably a drop of ten percentage points on traits of having sound judgement and likeability.

Simultaneously, Andrea Horwath’s figures have all moved in favourable directions, particularly in areas of her likeability likeable,  vision for Ontario, and having sound judgement.

Tim Hudak’s personal numbers are not as positive as either Horwath or Wynne, with fewer respondents agreeing that he is likeable, has sound judgment, and is honest; however, his leadership attributes registered only minor changes since May 2013.

Slide3

Even with constant and significant pressure related to the gas plant cancellations, the Tories have been unable to improve the image of Tim Hudak in the public eye.  However, the troubles of the provincial Liberal party have had a significant impact on the reputation and image of Kathleen Wynne who, although still leading Hudak in terms of judgement, leadership and qualification to be premier, suffered significant drops in those key metrics.

In the wake of Wynne’s fall, Andrea Horwath emerged as the front-runner in terms of leadership attributes; particularly in key areas of likability, sound judgement, honesty, and clear vision for Ontario.  Perhaps most importantly, she now tied with Kathleen Wynne on being qualified to be Premier.

The Bottom Line

The honeymoon period for Kathleen Wynne is now over.  The party is now tied for second with the NDP among committed voters (at 30%), only 24% of respondents believe the province is headed in the right direction (down four points since May) and Kathleen Wynne’s personal numbers have entered negative territory with more people now having a negative impression of the Premier than those with a positive impression (positive 31%, negative 36%).  In May, these numbers were reversed (positive 34%, negative 28%).  The longer Premier Wynne has been in power, the less Ontarians seem to like her.

Despite suffering a hit in their overall numbers, the Ontario Liberals are buoyed by positive perceptions about the provincial economy.  The opposition parties have not been effective in making the case that Ontario’s economy would be stronger under their watch as neither party has an advantage over the governing Liberals when it comes to which party respondents believe would best manage the provincial economy.  In fact, a plurality of respondents are unsure about which party they think would do a better job with economic management.

For the NDP, the important findings in within this study were Horwath’s personal leadership numbers.  Thirty-eight percent of respondents have a positive impression of her compared with only 20% who have a negative impression.  Compared with the other main party leaders, more respondents perceive her to be likeable, honest, and having sound judgment and she is competitive with Kathleen Wynne on qualified to be Premier.

Under Tim Hudak, the Progressive Conservative Party has a small lead among committed voters, the party remains weak in Toronto despite its by-election win in Etobicoke Lakeshore.  Hudak’s personal numbers remain weak and the party has lost its advantage on which party voters think is best to manage the economy.  On the bright side, issues that the party has focused on, reducing the deficit and debt and accountability, are the top concerns for many voters presenting the party an opportunity to connect with those voters.  Moreover, frustration and disappointment with the current government is growing with only 22% of respondents believing that the Liberal government deserves to be re-elected.  The challenge for Hudak and the PCs continues to be whether they can convince voters that the PC Party deserves to be elected in its place

Methodology

The survey was conducted online with 1,000 Ontarians eligible to vote using an internet survey programmed and collected by Abacus Data. A random sample of panelists was invited to participate in the survey from a representative online panel of over 400,000 Canadians.  The survey was completed from August 30 to September13,  2013.

Since the online survey was not a random, probability based sample, a margin of error could not be calculated.   The Marketing Research and Intelligence Association prohibits statements about margins of sampling error or population estimates with regard to most online panels.

The margin of error for a probability-based random sample of 1,000 respondents using a probability sample is +/- 3.1%, 19 times out of 20.

The data was weighted according to census data to ensure that the sample matched Ontario’s population according to age, gender, education level, and region.

For more information about the poll’s methodology or the results, please contact David Coletto, CEO at david@abacusdata.ca or at 613-232-2806.

Introducing Volatility Ranges – Dealing with Volatile Voters

A short post on a new measure we have been working on with seat projector and poll analyst Bryan Breguet from TooCloseToCall.ca.  Last week we released our latest federal ballot tracking that found a close three way race between the Tories, NDP and Liberals.

We have been going back and forth for a while since the Alberta and BC elections discussion how pollsters could report polling results with a little less certainty.  One of the mistakes we (pollsters, those interested in politics, the news media) often make is being overly certain – or at least – how polls are reported by pundits and the news media.

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While polls are snapshots in time, we know from a lot of academic research that Canadians are volatile when it comes to voting behaviour.  The concept of “partisan dealignment” advocated by Harold Clarke and his colleagues studying Canadian elections in the 1970s and 1980s and more recent 2004 and 2006 elections argues that short-term factors such as current issues, leadership, and campaign effects have a greater impact on voter behaviour than social factors such as class, race, language, or region (Clarke et al, 1979; 1991).

Bryan developed a way to measure the potential range of support of political parties using our scaled “likelihood to vote” survey questions.

We first introduced these scales during the 2011 Ontario election.  Basically, survey respondents are asked to rate their likelihood of voting for each of the main parties on a scale from 0 to 10 where 0 means they will absolutely not vote for the party and 10 means they will absolutely vote for the party.

Bryan explains how he turns our “likelihood to vote” question into probabilities using the traditional vote question over on his blog.  Using these probabilities he then runs simulations to determine the probability of different vote outcomes and what this has on the aggregate level.  This produces a range of popular vote scores that could happen based on the likelihood of voters to vote for each of the main political parties.

Using the latest data from our survey conducted at the end of August and early September, the chart below details the committed vote intention, the minimum and maximum level of support for each of the five main parties in Canada.

volatility

As you can see, our latest poll had a three-way tie between the CPC, LPC, and NDP.

And when you look at the volatility ranges, the scores produced for the three main parties are basically the same meaning that two years out from the next election, anything can really happen.  There’s a scenario where the Tories could get 37% of the vote but also one where their support drops to 21%.  The same is basically true for the Liberals and the NDP.

If we move away from looking at vote intention as a static variable and one that can move – it is clear that the vote intentions of Canadians are volatile and any of the three main parties could conceivable win the largest share of the vote.

Federal Politics: Conservatives, Liberals, and NDP in close three-way race

According to a new national survey by public opinion firm Abacus Data, the federal Liberal Party, Conservative Party, and NDP remain in a three-way tie for the lead in federal vote intentions. This three-way race has held constant since earlier in the summer (June 2013) when support for the federal Conservatives was down seven points since April 2013.

Among all Canadians, 23% said they vote for the Liberal Party (no change from June) while 23% would vote Conservative (up two since June). The NDP is unchanged at 21% of all respondents while 22% said they were undecided.

In Quebec among all respondents, support for the BQ was up seven points, from 19% in June to 26% in the most recent survey compared with 27% for the NDP and 21% for the Liberals. The Conservatives are at 8% among all respondents in Quebec while 14% of respondents said they were undecided.

Among only committed voters, the Conservative Party and Liberal Party are statistically tied at 30% for the Tories and 29% for the Liberals. The NDP is not far behind at 27% support among committed voters.

SeptVoteGraph

Subgroup Analysis (Committed Voters only)

This survey included an oversample of respondents living in Ontario allowing us to better understand voting intentions within Canada’s largest province. Province-wide, there is a close three-way race between the Tories, Liberals, and NDP. The Conservative Party and Liberal Party are statistically tied at 33% and 32% of committed voters respectively with the NDP not far back at 28%.

Within Ontario, the Liberals and the NDP are tied in Metro Toronto (Liberal 36% vs. NDP 34%) while the Tories have a 12-point lead in the region surrounding Toronto (CPC 42%, LPC 30%, NDP 23%). In Southwestern Ontario, the three main parties are statistically tied with each receiving about a third of committed voter support while in Eastern Ontario, the Tories and Liberals are deadlocked (Liberals 36% vs. Tories 34%).

Most of the movement from our June survey has occurred in Quebec where Bloc Quebecois is up nine points among committed voters from 22% to 31% between June and September. The NDP had the support of 32% of committed voters in Quebec (up six points from June) while the Liberal Party was at 25% among committed voters (down eight points since June).

Alberta continues to be Conservative country with 65% of committed Albertans saying they would vote for the Conservatives followed by the Liberals at 22% and the NDP at 5%.

In neighbouring British Columbia, the a latest Abacus poll has a close three-way race with the Conservatives, Liberals, and NDP all within seven points of each other. Readers should note the small sample sizes in regions outside of Ontario and Quebec.

CommittedVotersSept

Bottom Line

Since the beginning of summer 2013, the political opinion landscape in Canada has largely held steady.

The top three parties remain in a close race, with the Liberal and Conservative parties tied nationally. This shows that while June polling had seen a drop in support for the Conservative Party, there was no further decline in support over the summer.

The Conservatives have been able to mitigate some bad press this summer, keeping a lid on Liberal momentum and maintaining their tie for the lead.

For now, no party has emerged as an obvious front-runner among the three largest national parties coming out of the summer. The Liberal surge is holding but has stalled, the Tory drop is sticking by has stopped, and the NDP is holding onto to large pockets of support in Quebec, Ontario, and British Columbia.

The only potential movement may be in Quebec where the BQ’s numbers may be on the rise thanks to the controversy and focus on the PQ government’s social values charter proposal. However, due to a small sample size in Quebec it’s difficult for us to be confident that the rise in our numbers is a true reflection of a shift in preferences in Quebec.

Methodology

The survey was conducted online with 1,600 respondents in English and French using an internet survey programmed and collected by Abacus Data. A random sample of panelists was invited to participate in the survey from a representative panel of Canadians. The survey was completed from Aug 30 to Sept 4, 2013.

Since the online survey was not a random, probability based sample, a margin of error could not be calculated. The Marketing Research and Intelligence Association prohibits statements about margins of sampling error or population estimates with regard to most online panels.

The margin of error for a probability-based random sample of 1,600 respondents using a probability sample is +/- 2.5%, 19 times out of 20.

The data was weighted according to census data to ensure that the sample matched Canada’s population according to age, gender, education level, and region.

These questions were posed as part of the Abacus Data monthly Omnibus survey.

For more information about the poll’s methodology or the results, please contact David Coletto, CEO at david@abacusdata.ca or at 613-232-2806.

Justin Trudeau’s marijuana use OK with most Canadians Justin Trudeau’s marijuana use OK with most Canadians

According to a new survey from Abacus Data, a majority of Canadians support relaxing Canada’s marijuana laws, a large majority (77%) were aware that Justin Trudeau had admitted to using marjiuana while an MP and a large majority (68%) believed that he did what many other Canadians do, smoke a little marijuana privately with friends and his honesty should be encouraged.

Although his admission has sparked debates across Canada on the topic of marijuana laws, the Abacus Data survey finds his honesty did little to change his public image in the eyes of many Canadians, with 66% saying their opinion remains unchanged while 12% said the admission improved their impression of the Liberal Leader while 15% said their impression got worse.

Views on the Status of Marijuana in Canada

Overall, a majority of Canadians supported either legalizing (30%) or decriminalizing (36%) the use of marijuana, while 17% felt the law should be left as-is, and 11% felt the penalties should be increased.

Although there were minimal differences across age groups, residents of British Columbia were most likely to support the legalization of marijuana (36%), while Albertans and Quebec residents were least likely (20% and 19%, respectively).

Politically, Conservative Party voters were least likely to support legalizing marijuana (22%), while Green Party voters were most likely to support legalization (54%).

Presentation3

Justin Trudeau and Marijuana Use

Justin Trudeau’s recent admission surrounding his recreational use of marijuana has been a high profile story and topic of discussion across the country.  As a result, it is perhaps unsurprising that eight in ten Canadians (77%) were aware of his marijuana use.

Awareness was higher in Quebec (84%) and among those aged 45 and older.

Overall, Canadians’ opinion of Justin Trudeau remained relatively unchanged in the wake of his admission, with 66% of respondents stating that their opinion stayed the same.  Another 12% said their impression of Trudeau improved while 15% said it got worse.

Conservative Party supporters were the most likely to say their impression got worse (30%) while only 5% of Liberal Party supporters said their impression of Trudeau got worse.

Finally, respondents were asked to pick which of two statements best described their feelings towards Justin Trudeau’s recreational use of marijuana:

“He did what many other Canadians do:  smoke a little marijuana privately with friends and his honesty should be encouraged”

OR

“It was wrong of him to break the law he swore to uphold as a member of parliament”

Seven in ten Canadians (68%) felt their views aligned more closely with the first statement: that Trudeau did what many Canadians do and his honesty should be encouraged – a sentiment which seems to have been echoed by many other politicians since Trudeau came forward.

Strong regional differences were also observed across the statement test.  While residents of Quebec (77%), Central Canada (71%), and the Atlantic provinces (73%) were most likely to support Trudeau’s honesty, Conservative-leaning Alberta was evenly divided with 50% believing his honesty should be encouraged while 50% said it was wrong of him to break the law he swore to uphold as an MP.

The ideological divide amongst Tory voters is made even clearer through the results of the statement test.

Presentation3a

Bottom Line

Our research indicates that at least in the short-term, Trudeau’s admission that he smoked marijuana while an MP will have little negative impact on his popularity or the popularity of the Liberal Party.

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A majority of Canadians support legalizing or decriminalizing marijuana, especially those who support the Liberals, NDP, or Green Party.

Most of those who said their impression of the Liberal leader got worse were Conservative Party supporters while large majorities of Liberal, NDP, and Green Party supporters said it had no impact on their views of Trudeau.

Even though Trudeau admitted to smoking marijuana while an MP, most Canadians are willing to give the Liberal leader a pass and believe he only did what many other Canadians do and value his openness in the matter.

While the admission will not likely hurt Trudeau’s reputation, it got him a lot of attention and raised the issue of marijuana policy to the top of the agenda.  Our research finds that most Canadians have heard about the admission demonstrating the breadth of coverage the admission received.

Methodology

The survey was conducted online with 1,600 respondents in English and French using an internet survey programmed and collected by Abacus Data. A random sample of panelists was invited to participate in the survey from a representative panel of Canadians.  The survey was completed from Aug 30 to Sept 4, 2013.

Since the online survey was not a random, probability based sample, a margin of error could not be calculated.   The Marketing Research and Intelligence Association prohibits statements about margins of sampling error or population estimates with regard to most online panels.

The margin of error for a probability-based random sample of  1,600 respondents using a probability sample is +/- 2.5%, 19 times out of 20.

The data was weighted according to census data to ensure that the sample matched Canada’s population according to age, gender, education level, and region.

These questions were posed as part of the Abacus Data monthly Omnibus survey.  

Majority of Kingston Residents Oppose a Casino in Kingston

Most prefer a referendum on a new casino than City Council approval.

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A new random telephone survey of 505 Kingston residents commissioned by 1000 Islands Accommodation Partners  (TIAP) and conducted by independent polling firm Abacus Data finds that among residents with an opinion about a new casino in Kingston, a large majority (60%) are opposed to plans to build a new casino.  Only four in ten Kingston residents (40%) support a new casino in the city.

KingstonCasino_Feb2012_PPT

More significant, the percentage of respondents strongly opposed to a casino in Kingston is far greater than the number who strongly support a casino (40% strongly oppose vs. 16% strongly support).

“Although Kingston City Council is considering whether to approve a new OLG casino in the city, most of Kingston’s residents do not want one built in the city,” said David Coletto, CEO of Abacus Data.  “Most Kingston residents are opposed to a new casino and there are almost three times as many residents who are strongly opposed as there are who strongly support a Kingston casino.”

After respondents were told that Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne said that she wants municipalities to have autonomy to decided whether they want a casino or not, respondents were asked who should have the final say in whether a casino is built in Kingston.

Overall, 78% of respondents said they thought Kingston residents should have the final say about a casino through a referendum while 18% believed that Kingston City Council should have the final say.

“Kingston residents want to have a say in whether the city approves a new casino,” said Coletto.  “This view is so important to residents that even two thirds of those who support a casino think there should be a referendum.”KingstonCasino_Feb2012_RELEASEPPT

“At this point, opposition to a casino is quite strong and is the majority view in Kingston,” said Coletto.  “If Kingston City Council approves a new casino and OLG obliges, they will both be going against the will of Kingston residents.”

Methodology

The analysis in this report is based on telephone interviews conducted February 13-15, 2013, among a random sample of 505 adults 18 years of age or older living in the City of Kingston.  The survey was conducted by live interviewers in Ottawa, Ontario.

The statistics of a random sample of 505 respondents are accurate to within 4.5 percentage points, plus or minus, 19 times out of 20.

For more information about the poll’s methodology or the results, please contact David Coletto, CEO at david@abacusdata.ca or 613-232-2806.

 

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Big Changes Expected Among Top Rewards Programs in 2014 – Loyalty Redefined by Canadian Retailers Big Changes Expected Among Top Rewards Programs in 2014 – Loyalty Redefined by Canadian Retailers

This article is Part 3 of my series titled “Loyalty Redefined by Canadian Retailers”. Please take a moment to read my previous articles in this series about Canadian rewards programs; Part 2 – “The Best Rewards Programs in Canada According to Millennials” and Part 1 “The Top 10 Rewards Programs in Canada“.

Over the past few years there has been a resurgence of corporate interest in building strong loyalty programs, specifically those with hard consumer rewards attached. This is in part because businesses have finally been able to realize the power of customer data to increase profits through targeted offers, but also because consumers continue to look for ways to make their dollar go further with discount sales, special offers, coupons and more.While this option is still considered one of the promising ways to grow one’s fortune or safeguard one’s money, more realistic solution can be obtained by only choosing such futuristic approaches like the cryptocurrency trading practice using the automated crypto robots, about which you can click here to find out more! Ok back to the talk about loyalty programs!

In this article I will highlight some of the big changes that have recently occurred and that will occur in the loyalty space among the top 10 Canadian rewards programs.

Loyalty is finally starting to be understood as a long-term win-win relationship between business and consumer.

An ongoing study conducted by Canadian research firm Abacus Data, found that while about 9 in 10 Canadian adults use loyalty programs to collect points or miles, they use an average of 3 different loyalty programs to collect those points or miles. “These statistics haven’t really shifted much throughout the 3 surveys we conducted in 2013. We consistently see most Canadians using three or more rewards programs on a regular basis to collect points or miles for future redemption”, says Sean Copeland, Director of Consumer Research at Abacus Data.

The one card that you will see coming out of most Canadian consumers’ wallets is the AIR MILES Rewards Program (about 7 in 10 Canadians), followed at a distance by the Shoppers Optimum Program (about 4 in 10 Canadians). While these programs won’t disappear from people’s hands anytime soon, there will be some big changes in the coming months as Canadian retailers begin to redefine the consumer loyalty space.

Take a look at the chart below to see the changes in usage of rewards programs since the beginning of the year. Differences between survey periods that are 4% or more should be considered as significant. It will be very interesting to look at this same chart when we have revised numbers from the holiday season this December.

Top Canadian Rewards Programs 2013

Air Miles LogoAIR MILES Canada is used under license by LoyaltyOne, which is a wholly owned subsidiary of Alliance Data, making it not only the largest program in Canada, but a powerhouse of consumer loyalty insights that is unmatched in North America. For this reason alone, expect this unique coalition program to stay at the top of the rewards program list for many years to come. Watch out for this company’s international growth as LoyaltyOne pushes for thought leadership in areas yet to be owned.

Shoppers Optimum LogoIn 2000, the launch of the Shoppers Optimum Program caused quite the stir for AIR MILES because this new program acquired members at a never-before-seen rate and quickly became the second largest rewards program in Canada. Much of its success is due in part to the rapid growth in popularity of the Shoppers Drug Mart and Pharmaprix retail stores with their improved BeautyBeautiques, which now span across every region of Canada. The Optimum program is well-known for offering large point duplicator incentives through their 10x and 20x the points sales events, higher than average points redemption events, and individualized points offers through email and standard mail. The Optimum program is once again setting up to shakeup the loyalty industry due to Loblaw Companies announcing its intended acquisition of Shoppers Drug Mart for $12.4 billion, the largest takeover of a Canadian retailer. Since this announcement, there have been rumors about the merging the Shoppers Optimum program with Loblaw’s PC Plus or PC Points within the next 3 years after the sale closes. While the Optimum program has large market share and a strong brand that would benefit the PC Plus/Points program, it doesn’t offer a feasible revenue model for current Loblaw stores that lack the gross margin on products found at Shoppers Drug Mart.

Aeroplan logoAeroplan, a company owned by AIMIA, is based primarily around taking flights with AIR Canada to work your way up the new Air Canada Altitude status ladder of privileges. This program, like all programs it seems, is experiencing some major changes, including he cancellation of the publicly hated 7-year mileage redemption policy. The introduction of this policy pushed many avid Aeroplan collectors to leave over the past few years, which is likely why the policy is now being removed. They are also adding a new “distinction” program at the beginnign of 2014, likely to calm issues among members that arose from Air Canada’s incremental changes to reward levels from the Air Canada Top Tier Program to the Air Canada Altitude program. Another big change is that Aeroplan’s contract with CIBC is set to expire at the end of 2013, and Aimia has announced it intends to begin a new partnership with Toronto-Dominion Bank at the beginning of 2014.

Canadian Tire Money Advantage LogoA program that has been a staple of Canadian loyalty for over 50 years is now in need of clear direction and consistent messaging. In an attempt to rejuvenate it’s Canadian Tire Money program in 2012, Canadian Tire introduced the Canadian Tire Money Advantage program, which aims to replace the standard printed bills. This was a great concept program in Nova Scotia, but it is taking the retailer far too long to implement the program nation-wide. This delay is causing the retailer to quickly fall behind the competition in the loyalty space. The Canadian Tire program could also see some big benefits by removing the Canadian Tire branding to accommodate it’s other brands, including Mark’s Work Warehouse. Personally, I would suggest something simple like “Canadian Money Advantage”, which could then be sold as a larger coalition program across many verticals.

Petro-Points LogoI haven’t noticed any significant changes to Petro-Canada’s PETRO-POINTS program over the past year and I don’t expect much to change anytime soon. They did announce the closure of their online Points Shop, which seems to be more of a step back than a step forward. I’m honestly curious to hear what other people have to say about the future of this program as I can’t see how it will continue to compete on a level playing field with all of the others.

Scene LogoSince Cineplex owns about 85% of Canadian movie theatres it’s fair to say that the Scene program is here to stay. They have the unique ability to target youth at a rate unreachable by any other reward program and have seen substantial growth because of this. The partnership between Scotia Bank and Cineplex was a smart move for both companies, who likely both saw higher retention due to the Scene program. This program integrates standard earning opportunities through purchases as well as gamified in-theatre experiences on your smartphone. I would like to see this program start to reach out to other youth-focused retailers to expand its reach and further situate itself with this group.

Hudsons Bay Rewards LogoHudson’s Bay Rewards has seen a steep decline this year in the number of Canadians regularly using their program. However, I wouldn’t consider this a failure as much as a necessary and temporary decline due to changes with their program, changes in store, and the re-branding as a result of the closure of Zellers across Canada and the purchase of U.S. retailer Saks. Earlier this year, the HBC program was replaced by the new Hudson’s Bay Reward program, which is a far simplified program compared to what it was and should be a welcome change to consumers. The problem isn’t the program itself, but rather change itself as HBC evolves into something new. Many long-time members of the HBC Rewards program were likely of an older demographic of Zellers and old-school The Bay shoppers, meaning these changes seem inconvenient, difficult to understand and not applicable to their specific needs. Luckily there’s Walmart or Target for those shoppers.

PC Plus LogoA few months back, Loblaw launched its new PC Plus rewards program, which features a gamified smartphone app for use on almost every major mobile platform. David Coletto, CEO of Abacus Data, is well-documented advocate and avid user of the PC Plus app, which gives you access to personalized offers to earn rewards on food purchases. This is a program that will likely see unprecedented gains in usage if it is rolled out across all of the Loblaw brands. On the other side of Loblaw’s rewards, the original PC Points program hasn’t seen much growth since its early days in the late 1990′s, likely to due the requirement of members needing a bank account or credit card with PC Financial.

Sobeys LogoClub Sobeys, an aggressive entrant to the loyalty space, has been making leaps and bounds with the technology it uses to offer a more customer-friendly approach. Ways to earn now include a Membership card, Debit card, Credit card and Smartphone app. Now with Sobey’s recent acquisition of Safeway Canada’s 200+ predominant stores in Western Canada it has an opportunity to chew away at some of AIR MILES market share in the loyalty space if it ends its relationship with AIR MILES in favor of its own Club Sobeys program. Safeway is known for offering some of the best AIR MILES offers in Canada, and due to frequent shoppers it is likely the primary reason that we typically see higher AIR MILES participation in the Western region. This program is definitely one to watch over the next 12 months to see if the right leadership decisions come about to make it an industry leader or an industry flop.

With all of the changes happening across all of the top rewards programs in Canada I’m very curious to see which ones will be the loyalty industry leaders come this time next year. What are your predictions?

CANADIAN MILLENNIALS

Two weeks ago, the world’s most famous couple became the world’s most famous parents.

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, AKA Will and Kate, announced that a new heir to the British, and Canadian, throne had been born: George Louis Alexander. His birth was one of the most anticipated events in recent memory.

Well, maybe as anticipated as Kate and William’s wedding, or their engagement, heck, every time Kate goes grocery shopping is an anticipated event. But Will and Kate are undoubtedly the world’s most famous and most watched parents in the Millennial generation.

What they do with their new son will be watched by millions of moms and dads around the world.

Around the world, mothers are going to be looking to see…

What brand of car seat Kate and Will use when they bring Prince George to the local market or what brand of stroller they use to walk Prince George around the grounds of Kensington Palace.

There is no doubt that these two parents are going to influence the purchasing behaviour of millions of Millennials who are or will become parents in the next few years.

Although you cannot compete with the purchasing ability of this royal couple, at least, you can get the best possible things on earth for your kids by rightly choosing such investment choices that could help you fetch more money now and in the future! To know more, visit this web-site!

Canadian Millennial Parents – A HUGE Market

Consider these statistics.

There are about eight million Canadians in the Millennial Generation and according to the latest census, Canadians are having more babies than in the past.

According to the CBC story, “the number of children in Canada aged four and under jumped 11 per cent between 2006 and 2011 — the highest rate of growth for that age group since the five years between 1956 and 1961, the trailing edge of the baby boom.” By sheering mathematics alone this mini-baby boom makes sense.  Millennials, the children of Babyboomers, are having children.

So the post-war baby boom leads to an echo baby boom which leads to a mini baby boom today.  And this means we have entered a period when the number of Millennial parents is starting to grow big time as the majority of the generation is now over the age of 20.  Over the next five years, millions of young Canadians will become parents.

These new Millennial parents are unlike previous parents before them, and that matters for marketers.

What Makes Millennial Parents Different?

The most important factor that will effect how most Millennials will act as parents relates to our own upbringing and our use of technology.

1. Structure and Institutionalization = Feedback

Up until now, the Millennial Generation is the most institutionalized generation in history.

Most members of the generation have been in some form of structured, educational environment since we were 3 or 4 years old.

This means we crave feedback, order, and a clear set of directions. This is why Millennial employees always want to know how they’re doing and if they are on the right path and explains why my own students hate it when I leave all the course evaluations until later in the semester.

For marketers looking to sell products and services to parents, you can feed into this need for feedback by engaging with Millennial parents and helping them make the right decisions for their new families.

Huggies has been really successful at this with its Mommy Answers page.  Moms are invited to submit questions to their online community and get answers.  This colloborative parenting instinctively feeds the Millennial’s need for feedback – to feel comfortable that they are on the right track when it comes to parenting.

Nestlé also has a website with resources for new parents on everything from healthy pregnancy to healthy babies linking their products with the decisions parents have to make.

2. Technology = Digital Natives

Everyone knows that one of the distinguishing features of Millennials is their use of technology.

It’s not just that we use it a lot and are connected, but that we adapt quickly to it.  The friends within the social networks  we rely on for advice are online and therefore the brands we interact with need to become part of the conversation.  We can listen to this conversation happening in real time on Twitter and other social networks and learn from those conversations. Brands can also invite parents to have conversations in their space – like the Huggies Mom site.  Online engagement with influencers is the best way to get young parents aware of your products.

Word of mouth, online referrals, and sharing is what will move your brand from last to first – as long as the product or service you are offering is high quality and solves a problem that needs solving -or helps Millennial parents share their latest 100 cute photos of their baby!

The “Must DOs” for Marketing to Millennials Parents

Last week, Jaime wrote about Millennial moms being all grown up and ready to spend.

She had lots of good advice on marketing to them that I incorporate into a broader set of recommendations for engaging and connecting with this new cohort of parents.Millennialinfluencers

1. Find Our Influencers This step is critical when marketing to any Millennial, but especially when marketing to Millennial parents.  As mentioned earlier, Millennials crave feedback.  We need to know what we are doing is right.  We will research online, ask our own parents for advice, and seek out the opinion of those we trust. In the world of a Millennial parent, influencers take many forms but the most important are our friends (who have kids) and our parents.  Other important influencers are online resources such as blogs, websites, and other tools that young parents find to help them learn the ropes of parenthood. Engage those influencers and learn what they think about your brand, your products, and your services.  You will learn a lot about what Millennial parents think of you two or three months down the road.

2. Connect to Our Personal Brands A lot has been written about the relationship between Millennials and ethical consumerism.  Our own research finds that Millennials will spend more on ethical and locally sourced products. But the importance of ethical products is greater when it comes to our kids.  We want products that are safe, sustainable, and align our personal brands with our kids.  When I push my kid around in a stroller or have him play with certain types of toys, I’m sending a message about the kind of parent I am. All brand managers marketing towards Millennial parents need to ask: how does my brand align with the brand of Millennial parents?  The answer will not always been the same depending on which Millennial segments you’re marketing to.  Achiever parents will be very different from Simple Lifer parents.  Research helps understand how to connect your brand with the brand that individuals want to project.  Make a connection and you will create a loyal customer.

3. Make it Convenient

Everyone leads busy lives these days but no ones lives are busier than that of Millennial parents.  In trying to connect with our personal brands, tell us how your product or service will save us time and make our lives a little bit easier.  Whether its managing our work-life balance, other family commitments, and our need to stay healthy, adding on a new addition to the family eats up a lot of that time.  If you’re trying to sell me toys, food, baby clothes or other products, tell me how it will help make my life easier while still aligning with my own personal brand.

Some brands have been better than others at evolving to meet the new realities of Millennial parents.  Others still have a lot of work to do to understand Millennials and connect with them.  If you’re spending money marketing to Millennials through paper flyers and newspaper ads, its time to switch marketing and advertising agencies.

4. Engage Us and Feed our Need for Feedback

Call it feedback marketing.  Set up an online platform that helps Millennials get answers to questions, gives them feedback on how they are doing, and reassure them that they are headed on the right path.  The platform can also be used to show that your brand cares and wants them to be successful at whatever it is they are doing.  Feedback marketing builds trust.  It demonstrates that your brand is authentic and honest.  Build an online community who can become influencers for your brand, teach you things about their lives, and help you to serve their needs better.  Feedback marketing is for market-oriented brands and is a powerful tool for marketing to Millennials.

It is important for marketers to understand the intricacies of the incoming Gen Y Mom and to adapt to make the most of an engaged and active buying-force if they want to be successful over the long term.

Abacus Data Segment to Watch: The Achievers

Want to know more about this generation? Check out the Abacus Data Millennial Research Practice and our unique personality segmentation by checking out canadianmillennials.ca.

Sign up for the Abacus Insider newsletter and get the latest insights on the Millennial generation at Abacus Data.

Disclosure I’m 31 and not yet a Millennial parent, but that day will hopefully come soon.  The idea of raising one or two little kids is scary and I know I’ll be looking to others for help. If you do want to talk to a Millennial parent at Abacus Data, please reach out to Sean Copeland, our Director of Consumer Research.

Are You a Condo Super Hero or a Condo Insurance Zero? – Allstate Canada Condo Poll and Contest

Allstate Insurance Company of Canada has just released some interesting research results from their most recent Allstate Canada Condo Poll alongside the launch of their GTA Condo Hero Contest.

The Allstate release states, “many condo owners aren’t asking the right questions about their insurance liability when purchasing their condo”, putting them at serious financial risk. In fact, the research found that, “61 per cent of Canadian condo owners don’t know or incorrectly assume their building’s insurance will cover damage to another unit from water or fire that originated in their unit.”

Now, financial risk is one thing that we all ought to possibly stay away from! While being informed, as mentioned in this article, is important, you should also improve your financial solidity to gain the needed protection against possible financial risks in your life! If you are eager, find out the perfect ways for your financial solidity!

Allstate Canada’s research, conducted by Abacus Data, also revealed the following troubling statistics about what condo buyers forgot to ask about when purchasing their condo:

  • 66% of condo owners didn’t ask the condominium corporation if they had recently increased their requirement for what should be covered by a condo owner’s personal insurance.
  • 68% of condo owners didn’t ask whether the condo corporation had ever raised the deductible on their insurance.
  • 78% of condo owners didn’t ask if the cost of the condo corporation’s insurance premiums had ever gone down.

Responding to the lack of information surrounding what questions should be asked when buying a condo, Allstate Canada has pulled together some helpful tips for purchasing condo insurance at http://bit.ly/122sJWN. You can also find out more information about this poll, including additional findings, at the Allstate Canada Newsroom.

Allstate Canada knows that insurance isn’t the only thing that helps keep condo residents safe and sound. There are amazing condo staff members who have gone above and beyond by providing condo residents a place to turn to get help when they need it, emergency or not. To give thanks to these incredible condo staff members Allstate Canada is launching the GTA Condo Hero Contest to recognize the role a condo concierge, caretaker, security guard or property manager plays in giving condo owners a helping hand in times of trouble.

To nominate a Condo Hero, residents of the Greater Toronto Area should visit www.allstate.ca/CondoHero between August 12 and September 27 to explain why their condo concierge, caretaker, property manager or security guard deserves to be named the Condo Hero. The winning nominator and Condo Hero will each win $2,500 and have a chance to tell their story.

About Allstate Insurance Company of Canada

Allstate Insurance Company of Canada is one of the country’s leading producers and distributors of home and auto insurance products, serving Canadians since 1953. The company strives to keep its customers in “Good Hands®” as well as its employees, and has recently been listed on the Best Employers in Canada, Best Employers in the GTA, and Best Employers in Quebec lists. Allstate Canada is committed to making a positive difference in the communities in which it operates and has partnered with organizations such as Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD Canada), United Way and Junior Achievement. To learn more about Allstate Canada, visit www.allstate.ca. To find out more about condo insurance and to get a quick and free online quote, visit www.allstate.ca.

About the Allstate Canada Condo Poll
Allstate commissioned Abacus Data (www.abacusdata.ca) to conduct an online survey of 518 condo owners and buyers. Using industry best practices, a random sample of panelists was invited to participate in the survey from an online panel of over 300,000 Canadians. The total sample was weighted by age, gender and region to be proportionately representative of the Canadian population of condo owners and buyers. Responses were collected between May 21 – 25, 2013.

Since the online survey was not conducted using what is considered a random probability-based sample, a margin of error cannot be calculated or reported.   The Marketing Research and Intelligence Association prohibits statements about margins of sampling error or population estimates with regard to most online panels. However, the margin of error for a random probability-based sample of 518 respondents would be +/- 4.3%, 19 times out of 20.

Ontario Politics: Horwath and Wynne are the most popular leaders in Ontario Ontario Politics: Horwath and Wynne are the most popular leaders in Ontario

According to a new Ontario provincial survey, more Ontarians have a positive impression of Kathleen Wynne and Andrea Horwath than have a negative impression.

While Dalton McGuinty hurt Liberal fortunes and support, Kathleen Wynne’s personal popularity seems to be lifting support for the Liberals.  In a poll released last week, the Ontario Liberals were tied with the PCs at 34% among those who had a clear vote intention.

leaders

When asked to rate their personal impressions of the main leaders, Kathleen Wynne and Andrea Horwath both have net positive impressions.  Thirty-four percent of respondents have a positive impression of Kathleen Wynne while 33% have the same view of NDP Leader Andrea Horwath.  While the two female leaders are tied on positive impressions, Horwath has slightly better negative impressions.  But overall, both leaders are liked and are net benefits to their parties.

leaders2

The popularity of Kathleen Wynne with past NDP supporters should be a major concern for Andrea Horwath and the NDP.  Overall, 36% of past NDP voters have a positive impression of Wynne while 31% have a negative impression of the Premier.  Consider that only 8% of past NDP voters have a positive impression of former Premier Dalton McGuinty and you can see how Kathleen Wynne is a serious threat to NDP fortunes and why the Liberals are now tied with the PCs for the lead among decided voters.

Tim Hudak on the other hand is in an entirely different position.  Almost a majority of Ontarians have a negative impression of the Leader of the Opposition (46%) while only 22% view him positively. Those who view the PC Leader positively are almost exclusively those who voted PC in 2011 with only 9% and 11% of past Liberal and NDP Party supporters saying they have a positive impression of Hudak.  If leadership becomes a primary driver for voting behaviour, these numbers indicate why the PCs will have a difficult time expanding support beyond their 2011 level.

To contrast the popularity of the three current main party leaders, respondents were also asked to rate their impression of former Premier Dalton McGuinty.  Overall, only 12% of respondents had a positive impression of the former Premier while 67% had a negative impression of him.

Leadership Attributes

Survey respondents were also asked whether a number of attributes accurately described each of the three main party leaders in Ontario.

Overall, both Andrea Horwath and Kathleen Wynne have quite positive personal leadership brands.  A majority of respondents aware of each leader agreed that both are likeable, have sound judgment, and are honest.  A majority of respondents also believe that both leaders understand the problems facing Ontario.

honest

qualified

Tim Hudak’s personal numbers are not as positive with few respondents agreeing that he is likeable, has sound judgment, and is honest.

Leadership Attributes
(% Agreeing with Statement, Those with an Opinion Only)

Statements

Kathleen Wynne

Tim Hudak

Andrea Horwath

Advantage

Is qualified to be Premier

59%

48%

51%

Wynne

Has sound judgement

60%

41%

58%

Wynne/Horwath

Likeable

70%

39%

70%

Wynne/Horwath

Understands the problems facing Ontario

61%

48%

61%

Wynne/Horwath

More style than substance

43%

48%

42%

Wynne/Horwath

Has a clear vision for Ontario

50%

48%

54%

Horwath

Honest

61%

42%

69%

Horwath

These numbers might help to explain why the PCs have not been able to turn the gas plant cancellations into more support for the Tories, or at least weakening numbers for the Liberals.

likeable

When it comes to honesty and judgement, Kathleen Wynne has a significant lead over Tim Hudak.  When the Tories attack Premier Wynne on the file, it only energizes the Tory base who were never going to vote Liberal anyway.  The attacks do not seem to have impacted Wynne’s personal leadership attributes.

A large majority of Ontarians who know Kathleen Wynne think she’s honest and has sound judgment and fewer Ontarians think the same thing of Tim Hudak.  For an attack on integrity to be effective, the attacker has to have the high ground and be seen as having the qualities that those being attacked are perceived to lack.  That is not the case in a fight between Wynne and Hudak at the moment.

Bottom Line

“Most Ontarians like what they have seen from Kathleen Wynne so far.  A majority of Ontarians have either a positive or neutral impression of her and a majority would describe her as a leader who is honest, has sound judgment, and understands the problems facing Ontario,” said Abacus Data CEO David Coletto.

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“While Andrea Horwath’s personal numbers rival the Premier’s, she remains at a disadvantage because of the polarizing nature of the province’s electoral system.”

“While she has a lot of goodwill with Ontarians, Horwath can no longer easily contrast herself with the other two party leaders,” said Coletto.

“Kathleen Wynne’s authenticity and new approach to governing appeals to many Ontarians and Tim Hudak has clearly positioned himself as an agent for change.  Horwath needs to find a new contrast point if she is going to take advantage of her positive numbers.”

“Tim Hudak struggles weak personal numbers, particularly in and around Toronto,” said Coletto.  ”As we recently saw in British Columbia, it is hard to motivate voters for change when they dislike the alternative more than the status quo.”

 

Methodology

The survey was conducted online with 1,185 Ontarians eligible to vote using an internet survey programmed and collected by Abacus Data. A random sample of panelists was invited to participate in the survey from a representative online panel of over 150,000 Canadians.  The survey was completed from May 7to 9, 2013.

Since the online survey was not a random, probability based sample, a margin of error could not be calculated.   The Marketing Research and Intelligence Association prohibits statements about margins of sampling error or population estimates with regard to most online panels.

The margin of error for a probability-based random sample of 1,185 respondents using a probability sample is +/- 2.9%, 19 times out of 20.

The data was weighted according to census data to ensure that the sample matched Ontario’s population according to age, gender, education level, and region. 

Is the British House of Lords model viable for Canada’s Senate?

In today’s Globe and Mail, former Clerk of the Privy Council Mel Cappe makes a spirited defence of the appointed Senate.

He argues that the Senate is a more thoughtful legislature than the House of Commons reviewing issues in more detail.  It goes beyond partisan wrangling that chokes off serious policy debate and development in the House of Commons.

“It is difficult to find a powerful, successful, free democratic constitution of a great sovereign state which has adopted the single Chamber government.” – Sir Winston Churchill

Cappe writes about the kinds of people who were appointed to the Senate, writing in the past tense as if many of those appointed now don’t fit with the description.

He writes, “the people appointed to the Senate were not usually professional politicians. They had actually done something with their lives. They were small business people, senior managers in big business, heads of NGOs or professionals with real-world experience. They were the kind of people who wanted to make a difference and contribute to Canada, without subjecting themselves to the contact sport of elected politics. How to attract such people to public life without making them run for office? Appoint them.”

He unabashedly supports appointment arguing that “an elected Senate competing for political place with the electorate would undermine the role of the Commons. It is the Commons that has to constrain the Crown.”

He goes on to recommend a review of the British House of Lords model for Canada “where the appointment process has been reformed with a commission examining the quality of appointments. And in the House of Lords debates, the so-called people’s peers came from walks of life that nourished and informed the public debate.”

Cappe raises a lot of interesting points worthy of consideration.

So let’s look at the British House of Lords…

There are currently 755 members of the British House of Lords

The upper chamber in the British Parliament has no fixed membership and currently has 755 members (yes, 755 members!).  It is made up of mainly appointed peers along with no more than 26 “Lords Spiritual” representing the Anglican Church and 92 hereditary peers.

Appointment to the House of Lords is not based on region (like in Canada) and by convention the Prime Minister allows other party leaders to recommend appointments to keep the partisan balance in the Chamber.  An independent commission also makes recommendations for appointments for non-partisan peers.

The current composition of the House of Lords includes:

  • Conservative – 210
  • Labour – 217
  • Liberal Democrat – 89
  • Other parties – 13
  • Crossbenchers (publicly non-partisan) – 180
  • Non-affiliated – 21
  • Lords Spiritual – 25

Interestingly, members of the House of Lords receive no annual salary but their expenses related to their duties are paid for.

Would the House of Lords Model Work in Canada?

The Canadian Senate was originally designed to be a check on the excesses of the House of Commons and to protect regional interests.

As the Library of Parliament notes,

“Of approximately 50 bicameral legislatures in the world, Canada’s was designed to serve the distinct needs of this unique federation. The preamble of the Constitution Act 1867 sets out the decision of the federating provinces to adopt a constitution “similar in principle to that of the United Kingdom.” Thus our two Houses of Parliament were patterned after those of Britain, with two intentional exceptions only: as a young country without an aristocracy, Canada’s upper chamber could not be occupied by hereditary peers, but rather would house mature men (and, some time later, women) of diverse experience summoned by the Governor General on the recommendation of the Prime Minister; and secondly, the principal geographic regions of Canada would be represented equally. In the Commonwealth tradition, the Senate would primarily play a revising role, although its power was that of absolute veto. The lower chamber would be elected on the principle of representation by population.”

Regional equality in the Senate was a key part of the Confederation deal. It’s pretty much a deal breaker now.

It was part of the original bargain that brought the Maritime provinces and Quebec into Confederation.  It would ensure that the more populous regions (Ontario and Quebec) of the country couldn’t impose their will on the less populous Maritime provinces, and that the linguistic and religious minority interests (French and Catholic) would be protected with Quebec’s representation in the Senate.  The same principle held when Manitoba, BC, and Alberta and Saskatchewan joined Confederation later.

So regional representation is fundamental to the Senate’s original purpose and that is very different from the House of Lords.

But there are some features that could be imported from the British House of Lords.

  1. No salaries for Senators –  Senators should be appointed because of their expertise, experience, and service to Canada.  There should be no salary attached to the position.  That will encourage only those who want to serve the public from accepting a nomination and putting their name forward.
  2. Increase the number of Senators – Decreasing costs by eliminating salaries and decreasing staff will allow for more Senators.  There are currently 105 Senators but why not increase that to 200 or 300?  More Senators will dilute the influence of individual members and allow for more diversity and less partisanship.  The job wouldn’t be full time so members could sit on one committee and become policy experts on particular issues.  Also, we could get around the length of appointment since the number of Senators will be greater and we wouldn’t have the bulk of members sitting in the chamber for decades.  A major challenge with this proposal is that it would require an amendment to the Constitution.
  3. Independent Appointment Commission – This is a good idea but one that won’t likely happen.  Why would a sitting Prime Minister and his political party give up the power of appointing partisans into a legislature that has the power to stall or even block legislation coming out of the House of Commons?  Perhaps with enough public pressure such a body could be created but I don’t think the incentives are there for this to happen.

Rational Choice and Institutional Reform

The challenge with any institutional reform is the political incentives for change have to be clear and not hurt the party in power.

Since the Senate has almost as much power as the House of Commons to amend, stall, introduce, or block legislation (except for money bills), why would a governing party give up the ability to appoint individuals that will support its agenda and mandate?

The suggestions above don’t resolve the long standing regional questions – particularly as they pertain to Western Canada.  Some agreement would have to be made that would increase representation for Western Canadian provinces while maintaining higher than proportional representation for Atlantic Canada.

The same self-interest that would discourage a Prime Minister from giving up his/her prerogative over appointments would likely discourage provincial governments in Atlantic Canada, Quebec, and Ontario from supporting a decreasing in their proportional representation in the Senate.

I think the Senate can play a useful role.  I personally support many options for reform including election and abolition.  I think the current structure is outdated and not beneficial to the political and policy process.  But getting to a consensus will likely be impossible.

Looking to Britain and the longstanding debate it has had about its upper chamber could give us some insight into what we can do.

The least we can do is eliminate salaries, make Senators part-time positions, and increase the number of them.

If we can’t agree on how Senators get into the chamber, the least we can do is put the right people there, dilute the influence that each of them has on the political process, and take the financial incentives away from the appointment.

What do you think?