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Public approval rises for federal handling of pandemic: poll

This month, almost two-thirds of Canadians think the worst of COVID-19 is behind us, up 17 points since September.
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Close to two-thirds of Canadians are satisfied with the federal government’s management of COVID-19, a new poll shows

With just a few weeks to go before Christmas, Canada continues to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic. We are just coming off a Thanksgiving celebration where more extended families were able to be together. However, some hindrances – like having to wear a mask indoors – have not been completely eradicated.

Research Co. and Glacier Media have been tracking the perceptions of Canadians on how governments have managed the pandemic since March 2020. This month, there is positive momentum for Ottawa and for specific provincial administrations.

The level of satisfaction with the way the federal government is managing COVID-19 rose by seven points to 62%. This is the highest number registered by Ottawa on this question in 2021.

The regional breakdowns mirror the performance of the governing Liberal Party in the last federal election, with Quebec leading the way (70%, up 10 points), followed by Atlantic Canada (68%, up eight points), Ontario (64%, up eight points), British Columbia (58%, up seven points), Saskatchewan and Manitoba (54%, up four points) and Alberta (43%, down one point).

As was the case two months ago, Canadians who voted for the Liberals this year are particularly happy with the federal government’s pandemic management efforts (88%, up two points), and are joined my majorities of those who supported the New Democratic Party (NDP) (55%, down five points) and the Green Party (54%, up six points). Canadians who backed the Conservative Party (37%, up three points) and the People’s Party (27%, up 11 points) are more skeptical.

Municipal governments also saw their standing improve on the COVID-19 file, climbing three points to a level of satisfaction of 63%. Canadians aged 55 and over are more likely to be happy with the way their municipalities are managing the pandemic (70%) than their counterparts aged 35 to 54 (61%) and aged 18 to 34 (57%).

More Canadians are also content with their provincial governments this month (59%, up three points), with one glaring exception among the four most populous jurisdictions. Quebec is first with a rating of 76% (up nine points), followed by British Columbia with 62% (down four points) and Ontario with 56% (up six points). Once again, Alberta is on a different dimension, with just 29% of residents (up three points) thinking their government has handled COVID-19 effectively.

We can also report a positive shift when Canadians are asked about the past and present of the pandemic. This month, almost two-thirds of Canadians (65%) think the worst of COVID-19 is behind us, up 17 points since September. Conversely, just over two in five Canadians (21%) think we have not yet experienced the worst of the pandemic, down 15 points in two months. While the numbers are now close to the all-time high on this particular question (72% in July 2021), some doubts about the future persist.

The early hesitation about children returning to school has given way to tranquility as we await the winter break. Almost three in four Canadians (74%) agree with allowing K-12 students to go back to in-class learning in their province.

The mask mandates that have returned in some jurisdictions still make sense to a sizeable majority of Canadians. Just over four in five (81%) agree with requiring all customers or visitors entering an indoor premise to wear a mask or face covering while inside. This view is shared by 83% of British Columbians, Ontarians and Quebecers, as well as 75% of Albertans.

The big difference on masks continues to be political. Canadians who voted for the New Democrats and Liberals are more likely to endorse the use of face coverings indoors (90% and 89% respectively) than those who supported the Conservatives or the Greens (76% and 72% respectively). Agreement plummets to 33% among the tiny minority of Canadians who voted for People’s Party in September.

Masks are not the only issue where the supporters of the seatless party are not in tune with the rest of the country. While 85% of Canadians believe COVID-19 is a real threat, only 27% of People’s Party voters feel the same way.

The month of March will mark the second anniversary of the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. The holiday season of 2021 will be different from the last one, thanks in large part to the high rates of vaccination across the country. At this point, most Canadians appear convinced that the pandemic will not be more challenging in the future. This emotion is also greatly responsible for the high level of satisfaction with almost all governments.

Mario Canseco is president of Research Co.

Results are based on an online study conducted from November 8 to November 10, 2021, among 1,000 adults in Canada. The data has been statistically weighted according to Canadian census figures for age, gender and region. The margin of error, which measures sample variability, is plus or minus 3.1 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.