Nik Nanos digs beneath the numbers with Evan Solomon, host of CBC New Network's Power & Politics, to get to the political, economic and social forces that shape our lives.

This week: The power of the hot-button issue. How do crimes affect how politicians create and promote policy?

The number:

81

The percentage of Canadians who feel safe walking on the street after dark.

The source: OECD Better Life Index, released on May 29, 2012

The OECD Better Life Index shows that 81 per cent of Canadians feel safe enough to walk on the street after dark, much higher than the OECD average of 67 per cent.

So if Canadians feel safe, why has the government used its crime legislation so frequently and, as they would argue, so successfully?

Nik Nanos points to the power of hot-button politics.

"When you think of those big emotions, hope, fear anger. Those are the things that drive voting behaviours. The Conservatives know that and they've built a personal franchise around fighting crime and public safety."

"Regardless of whether Canadians feel safe or not, regardless of whether crime is going up or not, what the Conservatives are doing is touching into those raw nerves related to crime and using that to motivate their core, but also to raise money" he says.

Grisly headlines have dominated the Canadian media over the past week.

A shooting at Toronto's Eaton Centre food court left one man dead and 6 people injured.

And a Canadian man accused of murdering and dismembering a student in Montreal is arrested in Berlin, as gruesome details of the crime are still being revealed.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper was asked about the shooting at the Eaton Centre in Paris on Thursday, saying, "Look I obviously don't want to comment on a particular crime or a particular matter that may be before the courts. But as these things arise we're obviously going to look carefully at the circumstances and see if there's anything we can be doing in law to provide greater security to Canadians.

"And we do that constantly, and as you know that has been a priority of this government and obviously it will continue to be as these matters arise."

But Nanos says events like these ones are not being exploited. They validate the government's narrative of being tough on crime.

They are unusual, they ignite a firestorm and the government takes good advantage of that. 

Watch this week's Nanos Number above.