But would he bring in a radical new vision?
Les Whittington
OTTAWA — Canadians think government policies under a Martin-led government would not differ greatly from those under Chrétien, a poll says.

"Most people don't believe that Mr. Martin is about to bring in a radical new vision for the country or a fundamental shift in direction," said Frank Graves, president of EKOS Research Associates Inc., which conducted the national poll for The Toronto Star and CBC.

But Graves said there is a general feeling that Martin would do a better job running the country.

More than 80 per cent said Martin would manage the economy better than Chrétien. Respondents said a Martin-led government would favour similar social policies as under Chrétien but 71 per cent said Martin would invest more in social programs like education and health care.

Also, 61 per cent said Martin would allow more private health care than under Chrétien.

On taxes, 61 per cent said taxes would be reduced under a Martin government.

"The only real threat that Mr. Martin currently seems to be encountering is the lofty position in terms of the expectations with which he has been freighted by Canadians," said Graves.

In some cases, these expectations are contradictory, Graves noted. "The public expects both more spending and lower taxes and share an overwhelming conviction that he will improve an already robust Canadian economy."

The survey, conducted immediately after Chrétien announced his plans to retire, also found 56 per cent of Canadians believe Martin will be the next Liberal leader and prime minister.

"In fact, he eclipses by such a broad margin all the other contenders, that there isn't a race of any substantive nature that seems to appear right now."

With the leadership contest unlikely to be held until late 2003 or early 2004, the situation could certainly change, said Graves.

Deputy Prime Minister John Manley came second but only 5 per cent said he would be the next leader.

Other well-known contenders such as Industry Minister Allan Rock, Heritage Minister Sheila Copps, former Newfoundland premier Brian Tobin, and former New Brunswick premier Frank McKenna each garnered 2 per cent support.

"Probably, people will be positioning themselves for who's next after Mr. Martin rather than really trying to knock off Mr. Martin in the next 18 months," Graves said.

On a question about how good a prime minister Martin would be, 63 per cent said he would be a good choice, while 13 per cent said he would be a poor choice. The rest had no opinion.

Martin enjoys support among all groups and regions. But he is more popular in Ontario and Quebec than on the east and west coasts and is more popular among the well-educated, high-income Canadians, men, and older people, Graves said.

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