QE2 may need to look for work: New poll suggests 55% of Canadians want to ditch the monarchy

Steve Mertl
National Affairs Contributor
Daily Brew

A new poll suggests a majority of Canadians are ready to jettison the British royal family in favour of a Canadian head of state.

The poll, done about six weeks ago by Harris/Decima for the Your Canada, Your Constitution (YCYC) educational foundation, found 55 per cent of respondents want a Canadian in the largely ceremonial post, compared with 34 per cent who favoured retaining one of the royals.

“The federal Conservatives have introduced a bill to change the succession rules for the monarchy without consulting the provinces on this constitutional change, and have ignored completely that most Canadians want to change to a Canadian head of state selected by Canadians, Duff Conacher, a longtime democracy activist and YCYC co-ordinator said in a news release.

Bill C-53, which ends the preference for a male to take the throne and thus become king or queen of Canada, was rushed through the House of Commons by the Conservatives, and is currently being reviewed by the Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs, he said.

[ Related: Small majority of Canadians want to end monarchy ]

Not surprisingly, support for ditching the royals was strongest in Quebec (79 per cent), which skewed the national results. But in an email to Yahoo! Canada News, Conacher noted the issue could be significant in terms of national unity.

"(New) Quebec Liberal leader Philippe Couillard highlighted in his campaign that Quebec should negotiate signing on to the Canadian Constitution," he said, suggesting an offer to retire the monarchy could be an important bargaining chip for Canada.

"This change would really take the wind out of sovereignists' cause because it would take away a hot-button symbol that they like to point to," Conacher told Daily Brew.

Outside of Quebec, 48 per cent support the change. It was lowest in British Columbia at 39 per cent.

When it comes to age groups, more than 60 per cent of respondents under 34 favoured a Canadian head of state, but 55 per cent of those 35 to 64 also supported the change.

The poll was conducted from Jan. 31 to Feb. 11, sampling 2,024 Canadians with a margin or error of plus or minus 2.2 percentage points 19 times out of 20.

YCYC said the result jibes with a section of an Environics Focus Canada survey done last November/December that found only 17 per cent of those polled considered the Queen an important symbol of Canadian identity.

Other YCYC surveys have found most Canadians want an elected governor general and provincial lieutenant governors, and want them to have clear, written, enforceable powers.

[ Related: Canadians become more enamoured with the monarchy in 2012 ]

The Monarchist League of Canada dismissed the new poll.

"To be perfectly honest with you, this has to be the most amateurish poll I've ever seen on the monarchy," Dominion chairman Robert Finch told Yahoo! Canada via email. "It's perfectly obviously a push poll meant to skew results by asking such a loaded question."

Finch said YCYC "has virtually zero credibility on the monarchy file and producing polls like this one only reinforces why people don't take them seriously."

And before we start scratching the newly revived royal designation from our navy and air force, it's worth noting Canadians' feelings about the royals are pretty fickle.

A poll done last November for the Association for Canadian Studies found only 39 per cent of respondents considered the monarchy a source of personal or collective price, while 59 per cent were unimpressed by it, The Canadian Press reported at the time.

Jump forward just over a month, though, and you get a Forum Research poll done for the National Post that found only 36 per cent of respondents favoured abolishing the monarchy in Canada after Queen Elizabeth dies, compared with 43 per cent the year before.

The poll, done in mid-December, coincided with word that Prince William and Katherine, Duchess of Cambridge, were expecting a baby.

[ More Brew: Figure skater Kaetlyn Osmond not worried about Globe’s photo choice ]

It's also important to note the preamble to the poll question asked respondents to presume Ottawa and the provinces were reopening the Constitution, something that's highly unlikely.