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Conservatives in trouble with voters; MacKay in trouble with right-wingers

A poll released December 10 indicates that Canadians don't believe the Conservatives on the issue of torture of Afghan detainees. And a prominent right-wing blog thinks the time has come to fire Defence Minister Peter MacKay.

Ekos Research posted the poll results on its blog Thursday. The findings indicate that most Canadians believe that Canadian Forces handed detainees over to the Afghan government, knowing the detainees would be tortured:

A clear majority of Canadians believe that Canadian Forces handed off prisoners with the knowledge that they might be subject to torture (61% nationally and over 70% outside of CPC supporters). Of that, the vast majority (83%) believe that transferred prisoners were undoubtedly subjected to torture

The Ekos poll also found only 24 percent of those surveyed had any degree of satisfaction with the Conservative government's transparency and disclosure on the torture issue.

Another Ekos report, also published on Thursday, finds a "gentle erosion" in the Conservatives' position:

They have now clearly moved out of majority territory, having seen their support descend from the low 40s to the mid 30s. This places them below their election result of last year.

Notably, declining CPC fortunes have not resulted in greater support for the Liberals, but the margin between the two parties is now much smaller than it was just a couple of months ago.

More evidence of the declining fortunes of the CPC is found in the fact that we are now seeing virtually dead even splits as to whether the federal government is moving in the right or wrong direction. This is a significant shift from a long period where the Conservatives had enjoyed a modest but significant lead on this indicator.

Peter MacKay's own website had nothing to say about the controversy on December 10, but did include a new link to the recent statement of the Chief of the Defence Staff, General Walter Natynczyk, in which Natynczyk belatedly admitted that a detainee had indeed been beaten after Canadians had handed him over to Afghan government forces.

Meanwhile on The Shotgun, the blog of the right-wing Western, Hugh MacIntyre says "Peter MacKay can be safely gotten rid of now," since the old Progressive Conservatives who followed MacKay into the new CPC are unlikely to rebel against their new leader.

Crawford Kilian is a contributing editor of The Tyee.

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