Canadians concerned about deficit, split on feds' ability to rebuild economy: Nanos survey

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks to reporters during a news conference following a visit to the National Research Council of Canada (NRC) Royalmount Human Health Therapeutics Research Centre facility in Montreal, Monday, Aug 31, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes

Most Canadians are concerned about the ballooning federal deficit amid the COVID-19 pandemic but are divided on if they have confidence in the federal government to rebuild the economy, according to a new survey by Nanos Research.

The survey of 1,039 Canadians found that more than three quarters of those polled are concerned (47 per cent) or somewhat concerned (30 per cent) about the deficit. Just over two in 10 are not concerned (10 per cent) or somewhat not concerned (13 per cent).

Before the pandemic hit, Canada was expected to post a $28.1-billion deficit for 2020-2021. Updated numbers released in July show that number skyrocketing to $343.2 billion, due in large part to record economic aid and stimulus plans that are on-par with Second World War-level spending.

Part of that deficit can be attributed to measures such as the Canada Emergency Response Benefit, which has cost nearly $71.3 billion, and $30 billion spent on wage subsidies.

The federal government has described COVID-19 as the “challenge of a generation” that required unprecedented spending to help stave off a full-blown economic collapse. Some critics have said that the steep spending made sense in the early days of the pandemic but may be difficult to sustain as the pandemic drags on.

The Nanos survey suggests that those living in the Prairies are most worried about the deficit, with 83 per cent describing themselves as concerned or somewhat concerned. Every region surveyed found that most respondents were concerned or somewhat concerned, with Atlantic Canada (77 per cent), Quebec (77 per cent), Ontario (75 per cent) and British Columbia (74 per cent) expressing similar degrees of worry.

A PLAN FOR THE ECONOMY

Nanos found that Canadians are much more divided on whether they are confident the federal government has a plan to build a strong and environmentally sound economy.

On this question, Nanos found a near-perfect split, with 49 per cent saying they are either confident (11 per cent) or somewhat confident (38 per cent) the government has such a plan, with 47 per cent responding that they are either somewhat not confident (22 per cent) or not confident (25 per cent).

The Liberal government has to this point offered little in the way of specifics about how it plans to rebuild the economy coming out of the pandemic. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has said that a roadmap to recovery will be detailed when Parliament resumes with a throne speech on Sept. 23.

The highest level of confidence in the government having a plan was reported in Atlantic Canada (59 per cent) and the lowest in the Prairie provinces (34 per cent), with all other parts of the country reporting confidence in this at rates of 51 to 52 per cent.

Women were more likely to report confidence in the government having an economic plan (54 per cent, versus 44 per cent of men), while men were more likely to report concerns about the deficit (80 per cent, versus 74 per cent of women).

METHODOLOGY

These observations are based on an RDD dual frame (land- and cell-lines) hybrid telephone and online random survey of 1,039 Canadians, 18 years of age or older, between Aug. 31 and Sept. 3, 2020 as part of an omnibus survey. The margin of error for this survey is plus or minus 3.0 percentage points, 19 times out of 20. This study was commissioned by CTV News and the research was conducted by Nanos Research.

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