Health care, job creation are top priorities Canadians want MPs to tackle: poll

TORONTO – With parliamentarians back in the House of Commons this month, Canadians want their MPs to improve the quality of the country’s health care system, a new poll suggests.

Sixty-eight per cent of Canadians say developing better health care should top the list of the government’s priorities in the coming months, according to an Ipsos Reid poll conducted exclusively for Global News and Postmedia News.

Sixty-six per cent of Canadians polled also identified reducing unemployment and fostering job creation as issues Ottawa needs to address.

Finally, the Canadian electorate chose a hot button concern as a third issue 56 per cent want politicians to consider scaling back their pensions this fall.

Canadians conscious of taxes, government spending

The government promised in the latest budget earlier this year that pension reform for MPs was in the works. Reports suggest that reforms include boosting MPs’ contribution rate to 50 per cent from 14 per cent and raising the age of eligibility to 65. Right now, MPs can collect their pensions at 55 years old after six years of service.

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The Canadian Taxpayers Federation has alleged that for every dollar an MP contributes to his or her pension, taxpayers chip in $22.30.

Canada’s older citizens overwhelmingly (70 per cent) agreed that reforming MP pensions should be immediately dealt with, followed by middle-aged voters (59 per cent) and younger Canadians (35 per cent).

Another 42 per cent of Canadians say Parliament needs to work on a way to cut taxes.

These findings, released Friday, don’t stray far from issues that were at the forefront of the 2011 federal election. In that case, Canadians polled insisted that health care was the most compelling concern during the springtime campaign.

Following health care, again, was the economy, taxes and jobs.

Issues on the backburner for Canadians

If an issue isn’t affecting their daily lives or bank accounts directly, Canadians don’t necessarily want MPs to spend too much time on it, poll results showed.

While controversial deals were brokered between Canadian companies and foreign investors, such as a proposal by a Chinese firm to take over Canadian oil producer Nexxen Inc., poll respondents weren’t as worried.

Only 22 per cent of Canadians say that foreign investment or ownership of the nation’s energy sector by countries like China should be worth government discussion.

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Meanwhile the slashing of public sector jobs was also on the backburner of Canadians’ priorities, with a mere 18 per cent suggesting that it was important while the majority agreed that Parliament should focus on other issues.

What worries regions most

While pipeline projects, such as Keystone XL, garner media headlines, they aren’t on Canadians’ radar much except for in affected provinces.

Sixteen per cent of Canadians say that these pipelines slated to carry oil from Alberta to foreign markets should be a government priority, but in Alberta, this number doubles to nearly 30 per cent of concerned respondents.

In B.C., 24 per cent of residents say Ottawa should monitor pipeline details compared to provinces further away, such as Quebec and Atlantic Canada where about 12 and six per cent of those polled showed concern.

In a close race earlier this month, the Parti Quebecois eked out a win in Canada’s French-speaking province, opening the doors to a potential push for Quebec sovereignty.

While that may elicit worry in some Canadians, only about 11 per cent believe that national unity or separatism should be a top priority in the fall parliamentary session.

Those polled in Quebec were least like to push for discussion on national unity or separatism, results showed.

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Take a look at what respondents chose as top priorities for the government to consider:

• Improving the quality of our health care system – 68 per cent
• Creating jobs – 66 per cent
• Scaling back pensions for Members of Parliament – 56 per cent
• Cutting taxes – 42 per cent
• Providing more mental health services to Canadian soldiers who have served in Afghanistan – 40 per cent
• Issues dealing with the environment – 32 per cent
• Foreign investment or ownership of our energy sector by countries like China – 22 per cent
• Cutting back on jobs in the public service – 18 per cent
• Pipelines to carry oil from Alberta to foreign markets – 16 per cent
• National unity/separatism – 11 per cent
• Civil war uprising in Syria – 8 per cent
• F-35 fighter plane – 4 per cent

Between September 25 and September 26, 1,014 Canadian adults were interviewed online for the survey, which was weighted to bring it in line with Canadian demographics and has a margin of error of 3.1 percentage points nationally, 19 times out of 20.