Manitoba

Premier Stefanson ranks least popular among provincial leaders: Angus Reid poll

Premier Heather Stefanson continues to rank least popular among all provincial leaders in Canada despite a modest bump in her approval rating, a new poll suggests.

Her rating rose, but increase of 4 percentage points falls within margin of error

Premier Heather Stefanson tells reporters she isn't worried about her poll numbers. (Jeff Stapleton/CBC)

Manitoba Premier Heather Stefanson continues to rank least popular among all provincial leaders in Canada despite a modest bump in her approval rating, a new poll suggests.

The poll from the Angus Reid Institute suggests that 25 per cent of respondents approve of Stefanson's performance as premier. 

In January, Angus Reid released a poll that pegged Stefanson's support at 21 per cent.

At that time, the Omicron variant was pushing hospitalization rates to their highest levels of the COVID-19 pandemic.

This most recent poll was conducted online from March 10 to 15, using a representative randomized sample of 5,105 people who are members of the Angus Reid Forum.

These types of polls do not have a margin of error, but a probability sample of that same size would have a margin of two percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

In Manitoba, that comparable margin of error would be four percentage points, the same as the difference between this most recent poll and the one in January.

In its report, Angus Reid attributes Stefanson's unpopularity to criticism over the provincial government's handling of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

"She's continued in a tradition of Manitoban officials deflecting blame by using the phrase "coulda, woulda, shoulda" – dismissing criticism as 20/20 hindsight," the report says.

Stefanson ranked least popular among Canadian premiers, according to the poll, which was conducted from March 10 to 15. (Angus Reid Institute)

Angus Reid also found that Manitobans were the least likely to give their premier, including Stefanson and former premier Brian Pallister, a passing grade on their pandemic performance over the last two years. 

In a separate poll of 2,550 from March 1 to 4, only one in five respondents said they thought the premiers had done a good job. 

Stefanson was health minister during the third wave of the pandemic last spring, when Manitoba was forced to send intensive care patients out of the province due to the lack of available beds.

Manitoba has the second highest COVID-19 death rate after Quebec.

No change: Stefanson

Speaking to reporters on Friday, Stefanson brushed off the poll results, saying they wouldn't change her approach to governing.

"I'm going to continue to work each and every day as hard as I can to the best of my ability on behalf of Manitobans. That doesn't change," she said.

Stefanson was not alone in seeing an increase in her support. Most Canadian premiers saw a boost in their approval ratings since the last poll.

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney, who ranked second-last just ahead of Stefanson, also rose four points to 30 per cent approval. 

Although the percentage of people who moderately approve of Stefanson rose from 17 per cent to 23 per cent, the proportion of people who strongly disapprove rose to 43 per cent from 36 per cent.

Three per cent of respondents said they strongly approved, 21 per cent said they moderately disapproved, and 10 per cent couldn't decide either way.

Stefanson faced criticism again this week after congratulating her son's high school hockey team in the legislature chamber after being asked about the possibility of an inquiry into the death of a COVID-19 patient transferred out of province. She later released as statement apologizing.

When asked why she responded to the question the way she did, Stefanson responded that she was celebrating her son's accomplishments.

"I guess I was just very proud of my son and I was just thinking about it at the time. But again, it was not the right time and I apologize for that," she said.

Stefanson was sworn in as premier in November, at a time when a majority of Manitobans already viewed the provincial government as mishandling the pandemic response, according to Angus Reid.

Asked on Friday whether she would entertain the idea of an inquiry into the province's handling of the pandemic, Stefanson did not commit to any outside review.

"I'm not ruling anything like that out," she said. 

"I mean, I always want to look at what we can learn and how we can do things better. And so we'll explore those options to see what kind of a review that would look like."

Manitoba recently lifted the last of its pandemic health restrictions, with mask and self-isolation mandates ending on March 15, and vaccination requirements ending March 1. 

In the poll from March 1 to 4, 56 per cent of respondents said the province was removing restrictions at the right time or too slowly, while 46 per cent thought they were being lifted too soon.

That poll also found that a slim majority (51 per cent) of respondents approved of the performance of chief provincial public health officer Dr. Brent Roussin, while 25 per cent moderately disapproved, 19 per cent strongly disapproved, and six per cent didn't know.

That poll also has no margin of error, but a similar sample would have a margin of two percentage points.

Premier Stefanson ranks least popular among provincial leaders

3 months ago
Duration 2:11
Manitoba Premier Heather Stefanson continues to rank least popular among all provincial leaders in Canada despite a modest bump in her approval rating, a new poll suggests.

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