Canadians divided on benefits of Trans-Pacific Partnership: Vote Compass

Conservative Leader Stephen Harper has been touting the recently signed Trans-Pacific Partnership as a needed boon for our economy, but Canadians aren’t quite so sure, according to the latest results from Vote Compass.

TPP deal, which was signed earlier this week, involves 12 Pacific Rim countries including Canada

Prime Minister Stephen Harper has touted the recently signed Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement as being 'in the best interests of the Canadian economy.' (Chris Wattie/Reuters)

The prime minister has been touting the recently signed Trans-Pacific Partnership as a boon for our economy, but Canadians aren't quite so sure, according to the latest results from Vote Compass, the CBC's voter-engagement survey.

When asked whether the TPP trade deal is a "net benefit for Canada," 40 per cent of Vote Compass respondents overall agreed that it was, but 41 per cent were either neutral or didn't know.

The findings are based on 13,954 respondents who participated in Vote Compass on Oct. 6, 2015.

"The standout observation here is not the degree of agreement as to the outcome of the TPP for Canada, but rather that close to half the population either doesn't have an opinion on the matter or doesn't feel they know enough about it to take a position," said Clifton van der Linden, director of Vox Pop Labs, which developed Vote Compass.

Opens new markets

The TPP deal signed earlier this week involves 12 Pacific Rim countries, including Canada, and is designed to open new markets and ensure lower trade tariffs for the signatories.

NDP Leader Tom Mulcair has criticized the effects the TPP deal may have on the automotive and dairy industries in Canada. (Ryan Remiorz/Canadian Press)

The agreement is said to create new markets for Canadian goods such as beef, fruit and forestry products, but it is also expected to have an impact on the North American auto industry, for example, as more foreign car parts will be allowed to enter Canada, the U.S. and Mexico, lowering costs for manufacturers and consumers but potentially hurting auto workers.

It could also have a small impact on Canada's dairy producers, who have long been protected by a supply management system that guarantees profits.

CBC's Election Pollcast

Éric Grenier talks with Abacus Data's David Colletto about what his poll numbers suggest about the impact of the Trans-Pacific Partnership deal on the election. Listen to the podcast or subscribe here.

Under the TPP, an additional 3.25 per cent share of dairy imports would be allowed into Canada, although the Conservatives have announced that farmers will be compensated for losses through an almost $5-billion series of programs. The Conservatives are also promising $1 billion to help the auto sector cope with TPP.

In announcing the deal, Conservative Leader Stephen Harper said "this deal is, without any doubt whatsoever, in the best interests of the Canadian economy."

Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau says his party is "resolutely pro-trade," but he wants to see the details of the TPP before committing fully to it, and he has held off offering any offsets to the auto industry at this point.

NDP Leader Tom Mulcair has been more openly critical of the deal and what he sees as its shortcomings, and he says he "won't be bound" by the negotiation. 

The details haven't yet been released and the deal will eventually have to be ratified by Parliament.

Uncertainty about benefits

The Vote Compass results seem to reflect the parties' different positions on the deal, as well as a poor understanding of what the TPP actually entails.

Support for the TPP was highest among Conservative-identifying respondents; of these, 61 per cent agreed that the deal was beneficial to Canada. This was followed by Bloc Québécois supporters (46 per cent), Liberal supporters (31 per cent), Greens (29 per cent) and NDPs (23 per cent).

Among those who were either neutral or didn't know whether the deal was beneficial to Canada, Liberal supporters were the highest, with 46 per cent, followed by NDP supporters (45 per cent), Greens (43 per cent), Conservatives (33 per cent) and Bloc supporters (29 per cent).

When the responses were broken down by region, respondents in Quebec seemed most in favour of TPP, with 50 per cent of respondents agreeing that it would be beneficial to the country.

Respondents in the Atlantic provinces were the least convinced of this, with only 23 per cent agreeing that TPP would be beneficial, while 56 per cent were either neutral on the question or didn't know.

Developed by a team of social and statistical scientists from Vox Pop Labs, Vote Compass is a civic engagement application offered in Canada exclusively by CBC News. The findings are based on 13,954 respondents who participated in Vote Compass on Oct. 6, 2015.

Unlike opinion polls, respondents to Vote Compass are not randomly selected. Similar to opinion polls, however, the data are a non-random sample from the population and have been weighted in order to approximate a representative sample. Vote Compass data have been weighted by geography, gender, age, educational attainment, occupation, religion, religiosity and civic engagement to ensure the sample's composition reflects that of the actual population of Canada according to census data and other population estimates.


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