A new poll suggests Canadians are mostly giving a collective shrug to the latest federal budget, which has also barely affected the Liberals’ chances of winning the next election.
The Ipsos poll conducted exclusively for Global News found 62 per cent of Canadians who responded didn’t have a positive or negative opinion of the budget. An equal number of those surveyed — 19 per cent — gave the budget a thumbs up or a thumbs down.
Those opinions are an improvement over Canadians’ response to the last federal budget in 2019, which Ipsos found at the time was supported by just 11 per cent of those polled, compared to one in four who said it didn’t deliver.
Yet the high level of apathy for this year’s budget suggests Canadians aren’t focused on the country’s long-term financial outlook amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Ipsos public affairs CEO Darrell Bricker says.
“What the data shows is that Canadians are so preoccupied by what they’re dealing with relative to the pandemic, that the budget almost seemed like an interruption,” he said.
“An awful lot of (what Canadians are focused on) has to do almost exclusively with getting people access to vaccines and getting our lives back to normal. The budget didn’t really speak directly to those questions.”
An even larger majority of those surveyed, 79 per cent, said they felt the budget will neither help or hurt them personally.
Just over half of Canadians polled were equally ambivalent about whether they think the budget successfully offered a roadmap for the country’s economic recovery from the pandemic, while one in three said it does.
Liberal voters were the only group where a majority of respondents felt the budget set the stage for an economic rebound.
“When you take a look at what people were looking for in the budget — which was a combination of doing something about the pandemic and also putting down some basic guidelines for what a recovery could look like — Canadians are searching hard to find anything in that budget that really speaks to them,” Bricker said.
“In spite of all the hype … it doesn’t really seem to have connected with Canadians, at least not yet.”
That’s particularly true when it comes to the Liberals’ plans on childcare, which was a centerpiece of the budget tabled last Monday.
Ottawa is proposing up to $30 billion in fresh spending over the next five years to create a nationwide childcare system that it promises will bring childcare fees down to an average of $10 per day in regulated childcare centres by fiscal 2025-26.
Yet Ipsos found that only eight per cent of Canadians with children feel the budget will personally help them — even lower than the 10 per cent of respondents without children who said the same.
Bricker says it’s likely an acknowledgement that those with young children feel they may not be able to benefit from the national program once it’s up and running.
“Also I think the issue here is that for most people, the devil’s in the details,” he said. “There wasn’t a lot of detail in the budget (on the national childcare program) other than a promise to spend money and to negotiate things with the provinces.
“The issue the government has to deal with as it rolls this budget out and rolls out whatever policies emerge … is aligning that with the needs of Canadians at the time that they need it.”
Liberals still lead in election polling
For now, Canadians’ shrugging over the budget isn’t translating to a loss in support for the Liberals, who remain in a good position to win the next election.
Monday’s poll found the Liberals found earn 38 per cent of the vote if an election were held tomorrow, down just two points from when the same question was asked ahead of the budget’s release.
The Conservatives would trail with 27 per cent of the vote, also down two points.
The biggest change between the pre-budget and post-budget polls was support for the NDP. The latest poll found 19 per cent of voters would support the party, up six points from the April 12 poll, thanks to the Liberals and Tories losing votes to the New Democrats.
That could spell bad news for the Liberals — who have been eating into the NDP’s progressive voter base for years — and good news for the Tories, who could benefit from vote-splitting between their chief competitors.
Bricker says the Liberals also face issues in Quebec, where the latest poll found the Bloc Quebecois now lead with 38 per cent of the vote compared to 33 per cent for the Liberals.
In the April 12 poll, the Liberals had a slight edge over the Bloc, which Bricker says the party needs if it hopes to reclaim a majority.
“The Bloc moving ahead of the Liberals by five points is a problem,” he said.
“In Ontario they could probably win about what they won the last time around. But in Quebec, maybe some of the seats that they currently have would be in danger.”
Regardless of the standings, Bricker says the latest poll still shows a lack of desire on behalf of Canadians to go back to the polls anytime soon.
“People are not in a political mood,” he said. “They’re not in the mood to be thinking about political parties making decisions based on their electoral prospects and not on what’s best for fighting this pandemic.”