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COVID-19 no longer top issue facing Canadians ahead of possible election: poll

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As rumblings of a possible federal election continue across the country, a new poll has found that, for the first time since the start of COVID-19, the pandemic is no longer the top issue on most Canadians’ minds.

The new Ipsos polling, done exclusively for Global News, comes as provinces continue their reopening efforts and cases of COVID-19 continue to decrease nationally.

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According to the poll, the current top-of-mind issues Canadians are now thinking about the most are healthcare, affordability and cost of living, climate change and the economy — largely remaining the same from two years ago.

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And while the poll now points to the same big box issues now facing Canadians coming back to the forefront in a post-COVID-era, Ipsos’ CEO of Public Affairs Darrell Bricker says that the absence of COVID-19 from country’s top worries comes as quite a surprise — especially ahead of a possible federal election coming just around the corner.

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“I think a lot of strategists were thinking that the government’s performance during COVID would be the big feature element of this campaign,” said Bricker, who described the return back of other issues as the “important pushing of the urgent.”

“Right now what we’re finding is that what was previously urgent is now being displaced by what was previously most important.”

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The issue of COVID-19 now stands as the fifth most important problem for Canadians, with taxes, housing and poverty rounding out the latter half of the top ten, according to the poll.

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Other issues on Canadians’ minds include unemployment, government deficit, and seniors’ and Indigenous issues — the latter of which Bricker points to as probably coming to the forefront now amid the recent discoveries of unmarked burial sites at former residential schools.

The poll also asked Canadians which issues they found as the most influential in their vote choice, and found that the Liberals were seen as the best party to tackle three of the top five most important issues to them — healthcare, climate change and COVID-19.

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“The issues that have been coming up, it’s a bit more of a mixed bag,” said Bricker. “Health care, the Liberals lead on, but it tends to be a bit of a nonpartisan issue.

“Nobody thinks anybody’s great on health care and the reason is because they don’t think that anybody really has a plan that will completely reassure them, so I think emotionally, people think that the Liberals would do a better job.”

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As for the topic of COVID-19 as an issue for voters, the Liberals have a “commanding” lead, with 40 per cent perceiving Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government as the most competent to handle the pandemic, and all other parties lagging more than 20 points behind.

The Liberals have an eight point lead over the NDP when it comes to tackling healthcare, while the party is nearly tied with the Greens at 27 per cent.

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Among Canadians that say the economy is the main issue influencing their vote, the Conservatives hold a healthy eight point lead over the Liberals at 35 per cent.

Bricker says that that lead has got to be “problematic” for Trudeau’s Liberals.

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“Because as we move out of the urgent set of issues and we start moving on to the important  … they’re eight points behind on the economy,” said Bricker.

“That has to be concerning for the campaign planners.”

For this survey, a sample of 1,001 Canadians aged 18+ was interviewed online. Quotas and weighting were employed to ensure that the sample’s composition reflects that of the Canadian population according to census parameters. The precision of Ipsos online polls is measured using a credibility interval. In this case, the poll is accurate to within ± 3.5 percentage points, 19 times out of 20, had all Canadians aged 18+ been polled. The credibility interval will be wider among subsets of the population.

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