OTTAWA -- A new poll suggests that Canadians who support the Liberal government's tax-change proposal outnumber those opposed to the idea -- barely.
The Ekos-Canadian Press survey suggested that, based on what people know of the idea, 49 per cent of respondents support it, while 44 per cent are against.
The Liberals are proposing updates to the tax code to close loopholes they say let the wealthiest Canadians pay less tax -- changes the Opposition says will have far wider and negative implications for small businesses.
The poll put questions on the proposals to 4,839 people between Sept. 15 and Oct. 1 as the issue dominated the start of the fall sitting of Parliament.
The Conservatives have launched an all-out war on the idea, buying television ads and devoting nearly all of question period each day since the House of Commons returned to the topic. Provincial premiers have taken up the cause, pressing the issue at Tuesday's first ministers' meeting in Ottawa and a wide range of groups have written open letters, held protests and show up at government town halls to voice disagreement.
To what political end remains to be seen, the poll suggests.
"Given the vehemence of the initial response, some have speculated that the governing Liberals are being hurt by these proposals. In our view, this does not appear to be the case," Ekos said.
"While it is the case that the Liberals are in a significantly weaker position than they were a year ago, the decline occurred over the spring, not the summer."
Those polled who oppose the proposals are more likely identify as Conservative as well those who identify as poor, while support is more focused on the middle class.
The poll suggests the Liberals' message of tax fairness is resonating more broadly than the way the opposition is choosing to frame the debate.
Of those surveyed, 52 per cent said they support the Liberal argument that the changes will create a fairer tax system, while 40 per cent agreed with a statement that the changes amount to a tax grab.
"The battle over framing is by no means over but, at this early stage, it appears the government is enjoying even stronger support on the basic fairness framing."
Ekos researchers caution that the proposals up for debate are complex and while they're confident in their questions, a different approach could have yielded different results.
The poll, which reached respondents on both cellphones and land lines, carries a margin of error of plus or minus 1.4 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.
There's also what might happen next -- public opinion could evolve as the proposals do as well, the researchers note. The consultation period closed on Monday and the Liberals say they have listened to the feedback they've received.