Six in 10 Canadians support Prince Charles as future king

Canadians are warming up to Prince Charles after more than a decade in which public opinion turned against the heir to the throne, after his divorce from Princess Diana and his marriage to Camilla Parker Bowles.

Two days before the Prince of Wales and his wife begin their royal tour of Canada, a new poll for Canwest News Service and Global National says almost six in 10 Canadians, or 57 per cent of those surveyed, believe Charles should become king after the death of Queen Elizabeth, rather than pass the crown to his son, Prince William.

That number is up from only 51 per cent in 2005 – the year Charles and Camilla married – and is now approaching the 61 per cent of Canadians who, in 1993, wanted Charles to become king.

In the years after the 1996 divorce, and Diana’s subsequent death, "there was a lot of blame and finger-pointing at Charles," says John Wright, senior vice-president of Ipsos Reid Public Affairs, which conducted the survey.

"His competency for the crown was questioned. But time has passed, and now public opinion towards Charles is almost back to the way it was before his divorce. There’s been a redemption, I think."

While his own reputation may have improved in Canada, feelings here toward the monarchy remain, as they have been for decades, a subject of deep public division.

Half of those surveyed, 53 per cent, said Canada should end its constitutional ties to the monarchy after the Queen dies. Slightly fewer, 49 per cent, said Canada should actually abandon its constitutional monarchy structure and become a republic, with an elected head of state.

Sixty per cent also said the Queen and the Royal Family should have no formal role in Canadian society, and that they are "simply celebrities and nothing more."

Republican feelings are strongest in Quebec (60 per cent) and British Columbia (50 per cent), and weakest in Alberta (40 per cent) and Atlantic Canada (43 per cent).

The poll of 1,005 people was conducted in late October. It’s considered accurate within 3.1 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

The survey also asked Canadians to weigh in on the recent public squabble between the Prime Minister’s Office and Rideau Hall over whether Gov. Gen. Michaelle Jean should be allowed to refer to herself as Canada’s de facto head of state.

Fifty-three per cent of respondents said the Governor General should be called head of state, while 47 per cent agreed with the Prime Minister’s Office, saying that role and title should belong exclusively, as it does now, to the Queen.

Whatever polls might say, Charles and Camilla will get a first-hand impression of Canadian attitudes toward them and the monarchy when they arrive in St. John’s, N.L., on Monday for the start of an 11-day tour of Canada – their first official visit to this country as a married couple.

After three days in Newfoundland, they will stop in Ontario, British Columbia and Quebec before returning home in time for Charles’s 61st birthday, on November 14.

They will visit communities large and small, from the outport village of Cupids, N.L., to downtown Toronto, and there will be a heavy emphasis on meeting veterans of the war in Afghanistan – along with families of Canadian soldiers who have died there – as well as a visit to the army base in Petawawa, Ont., where Charles will speak to the next contingent of soldiers due to serve in Kandahar.

Because of security concerns, details of their exact schedule will only be made public two days before the events. However, federal officials in Ottawa said Friday there will be many opportunities throughout the tour for Canadians to see, speak, and shake hands with the royal couple.

"My wife and I are delighted to be visiting Canada this November," said Charles in a message released Friday. "I can hardly believe that this is my 15th visit, and I am greatly looking forward to introducing my wife to a country and a people which are very dear to my heart.

"My wife and I will be spending a great deal of time with the military… We would like to pay tribute to their outstanding service, not just to Canada, but to the entire international community."