The CEO Poll: Who's the best man?

Poll says: John McCain.

Business leaders give the federal mini-budget high marks.

Republican presidential nominee John McCain would be better for the Canadian economy than his Democratic counterpart, Barack Obama, according to a web poll conducted by COMPAS Inc.

McCain was the clear favourite when it came to trade policies among the 126 Canadian CEOs surveyed. Nearly three-quarters of them prefer McCain’s position on trade; the Arizona senator has positioned himself as a staunch proponent of free trade. Obama’s plans to renegotiate NAFTA, on the other hand, did not sit well with the panel, and only 6% support his policies over McCain’s. Not surprisingly, a majority of the CEOs (53%) believe the Canadian economy would benefit more under McCain than Obama.

However, 10% of the panel said neither candidate will do much for Canada. “As has been the case in the last one or two U.S. elections, there is no possible outcome that will be good for Canada,” wrote one CEO. “Given the gross lack of good faith from the U.S. in the application of NAFTA to softwood lumber and other commodities, how could we possibly negotiate any other trade agreements with the U.S. when we obviously can’t trust them to honour their written commitments?”

The idea of renegotiating NAFTA stirred up feelings of nationalism in other CEOs, too. “Canadians should grow a set of balls and stand up to the bullying of the USA on issues that affect us, such as the ongoing lumber dispute,” wrote one CEO.

The panel was divided between the two candidates on less controversial issues, such as taxation. McCain’s proposal to cut the maximum corporatetax rate to 25% from 35% garnered slightly more support than Obama’s preference to leave the rate unchanged.

The Democrat fared better with the panel on his personal income tax policies. Compared to McCain, Obama proposes greater tax cuts for the middle class, and steeper increases for the wealthiest 1% of taxpayers.

Though Canadians can’t decide the U.S. election, that doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy the show. “Regardless of who wins,” wrote one CEO, “both parties have been providing good entertainment value over the last few months.”