Political Traction: Who's suffering from 'Dutch Disease'?

Jaime Watt takes a weekly look at how issues making waves in Ottawa resonate with Canadians on CBC's Power & Politics. This week: Reframing the debate about the environment and the economy.
Evan Solomon and Jaime Watt discuss what political topics are on Canadians' radar this week, from EI reform to student protests in Quebec 9:59

Jaime Watt joins Power & Politics host Evan Solomon each week to look at how issues making waves in Ottawa resonate with Canadians.

Political Traction with Navigator's Jamie Watt appears weekly on Power & Politics. (CBC)

Monitoring the House of Commons' question period, mainstream media and the conversation on social media, Watt and his team at Navigator Ltd. determine which issues gained the most attention in official Ottawa, and then measure how much traction those issues managed to find with Canadians outside the nation's capital.

This week, the government's Employment Insurance reforms, NDP Leader Tom Mulcair's "Dutch Disease" comments and the continuing protests in Quebec were on the radar screen.

The NDP did a good job of re-framing the EI issue as a seasonal employment issue, and in bringing East Coast premiers onside, and got a lot of traction in Ottawa as a result. But across Canada, the issue has yet to take hold.

If there is any traction on the issue, it appears it will be regional — and on that front, the NDP has perhaps pursued the correct strategy in focusing on the effects in Atlantic Canada.

'Dutch Disease'

Ottawa pundits focused on the potential regional strife caused by Mulcair's comments on the possibility of Dutch Disease — the idea that Canada's strong resource sector has created an artificially high dollar that is hurting the manufacturing sector. But Canadians are actually picking up on the issue as an environmental one.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper has successfully framed environment and energy issues as an economic debate — but Mulcair and the NDP have made the calculation that there are votes to be won on the other side of the same coin.

Meanwhile, Ottawa is starting to show fatigue with the student protests in Quebec — but that isn't true in the rest of Canada. 

The national conversation has focused on Premier Jean Charest and his government's actions. He must ensure he is not the one blamed for the disruptions — while federal politicians of all stripes see the issue as politically radioactive and aren't touching it.

Here are the numbers for the week of May 26 to June 1: