OTTAWA - Canadians are leery about the federal government shouldering the cost of long-term rebuilding in Haiti, a new poll suggests.
This comes after Prime Minister Stephen Harper has spoken of a 10-year Canadian commitment to Haitian reconstruction, no matter how tightly budgets are squeezed at home.
The Canadian Press Harris-Decima survey suggests that while there is some support for short-term rebuilding, some of that melts away in the face of a five- to 10-year commitment.
Asked who should pay to rebuild Haiti, 44 per cent of respondents said charities should foot the bill over the short term, with 40 per cent opting for government funding.
Asked about the longer term of up to 10 years, 42 per cent chose charities, with only 28 per cent saying it should be the government's job.
The survey questioned more than 2,000 people in an omnibus telephone poll Feb. 11 to Feb. 14. It is considered accurate to within plus or minus 2.2 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.
Doug Anderson, senior vice-president at Harris-Decima, said it's the idea of a long-term commitment that has people reconsidering.
"A lot of people clearly don't have a problem with the federal government funding in the short term, but over the long term, the thing that I thought was interesting was that charities stay about the same, but some portion who were saying federal government, move to saying, 'I don't think actually funding will be needed after a while'."
Harper, however, has repeatedly stressed that Haiti needs more than a quick fix.
"We need to commit to Haiti for the long term," he said before an international funding conference in January. "It is not an exaggeration to say that 10 years of hard work awaits the world in Haiti."
The federal government has already earmarked $135 million for immediate earthquake relief in the battered Caribbean country, with hundreds of millions more promised over the next five years. The quake killed an estimated 200,000 people and reduced the capital, Port-au-Prince, and outlying towns and villages to ruins.
Harper pledged this week to build a $12-million, temporary administrative centre for the Haitian government to replace buildings shaken to the ground.
There are about 2,000 Canadian soldiers, including medics and engineers, helping relief efforts in Haiti. A half-dozen helicopters are supporting them and there are two warships standing offshore.
The poll found respondents pleased with the Canadian relief efforts so far, with 30 per cent calling the response excellent, 44 per cent saying good and 17 per cent rating it fair.
That's an unusual result, said Anderson.
"There isn't much that any government, anywhere, typically does that gets described as excellent by a third of the population," he said. "That's a pretty high rating."
The results are a small improvement from an earlier survey, done Jan. 21-24, in which 71 per cent judged the government's response as either excellent or good.
"That says that Canadians are onside with the approach that's been going on so far and appreciate the efforts," Anderson said.
However, he said he doubts that these numbers will translate into more political support for the Conservatives because Haiti isn't likely to be a ballot-box issue.
"I'd be surprised if there's a ... bump in voting intentions."