Majority of Canadians think COVID-19 U.S. border restrictions should lift this year: Nanos

A majority of Canadians are in favour of lifting all pandemic-prompted travel restrictions at the Canada-U.S. border this year, according to a new survey from Nanos Research.

As conversations continue about when the federal government will lift certain border measures like mandatory testing, quarantines, and limits on who can cross into Canada for non-essential reasons, new data indicates that most people will be ready for a return to pre-pandemic rules by the end of 2021.

According to a survey commissioned by CTV News and The Globe and Mail, when asked what the timeline should be for eliminating all pandemic-related restrictions on travel across the Canada-U.S. border, 63 per cent of respondents said sometime before the end of the year.

Broken down:

  • 34 per cent said this fall;
  • 15 per cent said immediately, and;
  • 14 per cent said this summer.

While there appears to be some urgency to eliminate the travel restrictions, there were more respondents who were comfortable with reopening next year—16 per cent—than those who said they were ready now or would be OK with it before the leaves on the trees start to change colour.

Another 21 per cent of respondents said they were unsure about when the government should ease off on border restrictions.

According to the survey, Canadians from the Prairies were more likely to say restrictions should be eliminated immediately than Canadians as a whole, with 28 per cent of respondents indicating the border could open tomorrow and they’d be good with it.

Atlantic Canadians—who have spent the better part of the pandemic living within a bubble of regional travel restrictions— were more likely to say that they’d like to see the U.S. border measures lifted in 2022, with 22 per cent of respondents indicating that’d be their preferred timeline.

Restrictions on non-essential travel across the Canada-U.S. border first came into place in March 2020 and, with some changes along the way, have been extended each month since.

The current extension of the border rules is set to expire July 21, though it’s unlikely the Canadian government will be ready by then to open the doors.

On Thursday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said that it’s going to be “quite a while” before Canada is ready to welcome any tourists from other countries who are unvaccinated. Though he said that before, the government is looking at what rules could be eased “in the coming weeks” to allow fully-vaccinated international travellers cross the border with more ease.

The prime minister said that he understands the impatience to return to as much of pre-pandemic normalcy as possible but the government remains hesitant to put dates or timelines on the table for when border restrictions could be lifted.

“We will continue the reopening of our borders, but we will do it in a way that ensures the ongoing safety of all Canadians,” he said. 

For months, U.S. officials and industry stakeholders on this side of the border have been calling for a comprehensive border reopening plan that would allow the tourism sector, businesses, and interested travellers to prepare.

“Canadians need clarity and certainty, which today we don't have, and the goalposts keep moving. It's time to pick a goal, and to stick with it,” said Canadian Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Perrin Beatty during a press conference on Thursday.

PUBLIC HEALTH TRUMPS ECONOMY

Still, the priority concern for Canadians surveyed about the border was public health and not the economy or jobs.

Asked what was most important in their view when it comes to making decisions about reopening the Canada-U.S. border, 79 per cent of respondents said public health.

That response was far more common than the economy and jobs, which was the top reason for 18 per cent of respondents. Another three per cent were unsure.

According to the survey, more than 80 per cent of respondents in all regions other than the Prairies put public health above the economy and jobs as the leading factor for decisions around reopening the border. 

SUPPORTIVE OF MEASURES TO DATE

While it remains to be seen whether the federal government will keep pace with the majority of public opinion when it comes to seeing the border reopen before 2022, the majority of those surveyed said so far, they have been satisfied with the Liberals’ managing of the border measures throughout the pandemic.

Asked on a scale of zero to 10, where zero is “very dissatisfied” and 10 is “very satisfied,” 60 per cent of respondents said they were somewhere between a seven and a 10 on the satisfaction scale.

Another 16 per cent of respondents indicated they feel neutral about the job Trudeau and his government have done, while 22 per cent said they are dissatisfied.

Satisfaction was lower in the Prairies and in Ontario, where Premier Doug Ford repeatedly called for tougher border measures amid the threat of variants of concern.

While the border reopening remains a focus for Canadians, a separate Nanos survey recently indicated that the economy, and not the pandemic, is the issue that will have the most influence in the minds of voters should there be an election on the horizon.

METHODOLOGY

Nanos conducted an RDD dual frame (land-and cell-lines) hybrid telephone and online random survey of 1,051 Canadians, 18 years of age or older, between June 30 and July 5, 2021 as part of an omnibus survey.

Participants were randomly recruited by telephone using live agents and administered a survey online. The sample included both land-and cell-lines across Canada. The results were statistically checked and weighted by age and gender using the latest census information and the sample is geographically stratified to be representative of Canada.

Individuals were randomly called using random digit dialling with a maximum of five call backs.

The margin of error for this survey is ±3.1 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

This study was commissioned by CTV News and the Globe and Mail and the research was conducted by Nanos Research.