Some Canadians aren’t fully sold on the federal government’s recent mid-year fiscal update, a new poll suggests, with many finding gaps in the economic plan.
Canadians overall appear pleased to see investments in support of summer jobs, interest-free student loans and speeding up approval of energy projects, according to an Ipsos poll conducted exclusively for Global News and published Saturday.
However, the same reaction wasn’t seen in other segments of the plan including health care and finding savings in government programs.
According to Darrell Bricker, global CEO of Ipsos Public Affairs, Canadians “want it all.”
“What we’re seeing in the data at the moment is that Canadians are prepared to put aside longer-term issues and are more focused at the moment,” Bricker told Global News, adding many would prefer to see money directed towards people and jobs as they face “economic anxiety.”
The fall economic statement was presented in the House of Commons on Nov. 3 by Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland, promising $30.6 billion over the years leading up to 2027-28 through multiple policies.
Here’s a look at how most Canadians feel about different sectors of the federal economic plan.
Many were discontented by parts of the economic update, including 79 per cent who said seeing no new investment in health care in the plan is a negative for Canada.
“They felt that the economic statement really didn’t deal with health care,” said Bricker, noting older Canadians were more inclined to be to be displeased than younger people.
“Younger people are really more supportive of this idea of spending on people and economic activity right now and not so much concerned about health care, because they’re not using it as much as older Canadians.”
Only five per cent of those aged 55 and older said no new health care investments are a positive, whereas among those aged 18-36, 38 per cent were found to be favouring the move.
Moreover, women were found more likely to be unhappy than men in the lack of investment.
According to Bricker, men were more likely to be displeased when it came to policies related to “tax reductions and paying attention to the deficit,” rather than health care.
While 26 per cent of men saw this as a positive, only 15 percent of women said the same.
According to data published earlier this month by Statistics Canada, women are providing more unpaid care in Canada and are more likely to struggle with mental and physical health problems as a result of caregiving compared to their male counterparts.
Compared to residents in Ontario, British Columbia and Alberta, those living in Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Atlantic Canada and Quebec were also more likely to be dissatisfied in the lack of investment into health care.
Bricker said this is because the results follow Canada’s “political map.”
“Just about anything that would been seen as a positive in the economic statement, people in British Columbia, Quebec, Atlantic Canada and maybe even parts of Ontario would tend to see it relatively positively,” he said.
“But the minute you get between British Columbia and Ontario and start focusing on the three provinces in the middle, that’s when even things that are positive are not necessarily seen in the same light.
“Just about anything that comes out of Ottawa these days is very much defined by how people supported the government in the election campaign,” he added.
With the fall update warning of the risks of a possible recession, the cost of living has been on the mind of many Canadians.
Inflation in Canada has been sitting at 6.9 per cent for two months in a row — barely down from previous record highs — and many who responded to the poll appeared to be displeased with the absence of ways to help reduce debt in the fiscal plan.
A total of 69 per cent were not happy to see no new money directed toward paying off the Canadian government’s debt, and 70 per cent were also dissatisfied with no savings or other efficiencies identified in current federal programs to help lower money being added to the debt.
“Canadians are not happy that there hasn’t been any effort to get back at the deficit,” said Bricker.
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“They believe the government should at least be signalling at the intention to deal with the current deficit level in Canada.”
For the current fiscal year, the mid-year budget update forecasted a $36.4-billion deficit, which is about $16 billion lower than anticipated in the spring budget due in part to high inflation.
The fiscal update says the deficit will however shrink over the next four years before turning into a budget surplus of $4.5 billion during the 2027-28 fiscal year.
The poll also asked Canadians about their take on a windfall tax not being part of the plan — a tax that allows for certain industries, like banks, grocers or the energy sector, to pay only when they experience higher-than-normal profits.
Forty-two per cent of men saw this as a positive, compared to 39 per cent of women.
“They’d like to see some tax cuts and they’d also like to see some increase in taxes on people who they believe are making too much money,” said Bricker.
Aside from student loan and natural resource investments, the poll also showed men were less likely to be troubled by policies missing from the plan as compared to women.
Just like health care investments, more men (43 per cent) considered no reduction or pause on Canada’s carbon tax, GST or the gas tax as a positive.
What are Canadians happy with?
Despite finding gaps in the fiscal update, most Canadians were supportive of a number of announcements made in the plan, including eight in 10 who were glad to see an $800-million investment over three years to support summer jobs, employment strategy for youth and job placements.
Also announced in the update was a $2.7-billion investment over five years to make all Canada Student Loans and Canada Apprentice Loans permanently interest-free. Seven in 10 saw the investment as a positive for the country, according to the poll.
Three in four were also pleased to see an investment plan to speed up approval of natural resources and energy products. The investment is expected to provide $1.28 billion over six years.
Additionally, the $4-billion investment over six years to issue advance payments for those that qualify for the Canada Workers Benefit was also seen as a positive by seven in 10 Canadians.
This benefit is a refundable tax credit to help individuals and families who are working but earning a low income, according to the federal government’s website.
The reaction of Canadians — some happy to see money invested in places like student loans and job placement, but also displeased to not see funds directed to other areas like implementing a windfall tax — can be “contradicting,” says Bricker.
But, “you can’t really have both,” he added.
“You can increase government spending, but it’s obviously going to require taxes to pay for it or an increase in the deficit. Canadians aren’t making that calculation and not making that balance at the moment,” explained Bricker.
These are some of the findings of an Ipsos poll conducted between November 11 and 14, 2022, on behalf of Global News. For this survey, a sample of 1,005 Canadians aged 18+ was interviewed. 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. All sample surveys and polls may be subject to other sources of error, including, but not limited to coverage error, and measurement error.
–With files from The Canadian Press