As the Liberal government goes to negotiate a new climate agreement in Paris, polling shows that climate change is a low priority for most Canadians.
When presented with a long list of policy issues, only 13 per cent of Canadians chose climate change as one of their top three worries, according to an Ipsos poll provided exclusively to Global News. Forty per cent of Canadians chose health care, and 39 per cent chose unemployment. Climate change even ranked below crime and education.
“There are important issues and there are urgent issues,” said Mike Colledge, president of Canadian public affairs at Ipsos. While climate change is important, he said, day-to-day worries like a neighbour losing a job, or a parent in need of health services are almost always of greater concern.
However, according to the polling, he said, Canadians are open to action on climate change in a way that they haven’t been in a while. The Liberal government has “a great opportunity to lead, to have a conversation with Canadians.”
This is because 48 per cent of Canadians who have an opinion on the issue believe that the Liberal government should do more than the 30 per cent reduction in greenhouse gases proposed by the Conservatives. Nearly half of Canadians also believe that the government can address climate change and strengthen the economy at the same time. Slightly fewer people believe that climate change action will hurt the economy than those who believe it won’t.
“There’s a big honeymoon period here,” said Colledge. “Federal and provincial governments have done a good job in saying that we lag behind other countries.”
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Politicians have said that we can do more, and Canadians are listening, he said. “And they’re listening on we can do this and grow the economy at the same time.”
Two years from now, if the economy hasn’t improved, the mood could shift, he thinks. So, it’s a good idea for the government to tackle it at the beginning of its mandate rather than closer to an election.
Climate change is a global issue that requires global action. However, people in many other countries place climate change even lower than Canadians do.
In developing countries, said Colledge, “it’s really not an issue.”
“Some of the poorer countries, corruption and crime are higher up on their lists,” he said. With the exception of China – where air pollution is highly visible in cities – generally only developed countries rank it as a top concern.
Graphics by Janet Cordahi, Global News.