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Canadians don't want $50-billion man to resign over deficit bombshell

OTTAWA - Canadians appear to be willing to cut Finance Minister Jim Flaherty a little slack over his deficit shocker.

OTTAWA - Canadians appear to be willing to cut Finance Minister Jim Flaherty a little slack over his deficit shocker.

A Canadian Press Harris-Decima poll shows few Canadians think the finance minister should resign just because he made a $16-billion mistake on his deficit projection.

The survey of 1,000 people finds only 28 per cent who want Flaherty to step down, while 59 per cent think he should stay on the job.

Even among Liberal supporters, 54 per cent don't think he should lose his position because the budget deficit has ballooned to more than $50 billion - not the $34 billion predicted in the budget four months ago.

Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff has called on the prime minister to fire Flaherty, who dropped the deficit bombshell last week.

On Tuesday, Flaherty got another bombshell with a TD Bank report that predicts the budgetary shortfalls will total more than $170 billion over five years, twice the budget estimate.

But Flaherty gets majority support from every segment of the Canadian population, whether it is divided by gender, income, age, region or political affiliation.

Only 39 per cent of New Democrats think Flaherty should go, while six out of 10 Bloc Quebecois and Green party supporters think he should stay.

The telephone survey was taken between May 28 and May 31 and is considered accurate to within plus or minus 3.1 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

One of the reasons may be that when Flaherty announced his bombshell last week, a minority - 29 per cent - said they were surprised, while 67 per cent said they were not.

"The results are a little surprising," said pollster Jeff Walker of Harris-Decima.

"I think people came to terms with the fact we were going to have a deficit in order to stimulate the economy."

The poll does find growing unease with the Conservative government's handling of the economy, which could have lasting implications for a party that campaigned on its financial and economic prowess.

Walker said Canadians are still not judging the government harshly, but said the Tories have lost some credibility.

Only three per cent believe the Tories are doing an excellent job, while 27 per cent say the government is doing a poor job, eight points higher than in last month's poll. The plurality is in the middle, with 40 per cent giving the Harper government a fair rating.

Among those who think the government is doing a poor job, 55 per cent want Flaherty to resign.

 
 
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