The COVID-19 outbreak has modified the way Canadians are connected to their governments and the world.
We are now accustomed to daily briefings from the prime minister and provincial heath authorities. Every day seems to bring a new reminder for Canadians to engage in social distancing.
A few days ago, Research Co. and Glacier Media found that most Canadians appear resigned for a long battle, with 82% calling the outbreak “a major crisis” and 72% thinking that the worst of COVID-19 is “ahead of us.” This time, we asked Canadians about their governments and tested a few statements related to global concerns.
Across the country, 66% of Canadians are satisfied with the way the federal government has dealt with the COVID-19 outbreak. Canadians aged 55 and over are more likely to approve of the way Ottawa has handled this crisis (73%) than those aged 35 to 54 (64%) and those aged 18 to 34 (60%).
Atlantic Canada has the largest proportion of residents who are pleased with the federal government on this file (71%), followed by Ontario (68%), Alberta (66%), British Columbia (65%), Saskatchewan and Manitoba (also 65%) and Quebec (58%).
When it comes to the performance of provincial administrations, the Canada-wide grade is four points higher (70%). The average is boosted by Quebec, where a whopping 84% of residents are satisfied with their government. British Columbia is second at 69%, followed by Ontario (66%), Alberta (65%), Atlantic Canada (64%) and Manitoba and Saskatchewan (also 64%).
Municipal governments also fare well, with 64% of Canadians endorsing the way local politicians have managed this situation. As is the case with the other two levels of government, Canadians aged 55 and over are more likely to be content (70%).
All things considered, Canada could be doing much worse. We do not even have to leave our own continent to be exposed to two disappointing examples of inadequate leadership. In the United States, the current dweller of the White House has whiffed badly at the softest balls tossed by reporters looking for comfort in a time of uncertainty. Further south, the President of Mexico has refused to step back from his perpetual campaign mode, actually believing that religious amulets and superstition will effectively shield him from infection. The citizens of Canada’s major trading partners are dangerously ill-served by these unenlightened men.
But even at a time when most Canadians approve of the performance of the people elected to make decisions, there is already backlash connected to the origin of the crisis. Most Canadians, however, establish a clear difference between people and governments.
In our survey, three in five Canadians (61%) think it is not acceptable to refer to COVID-19 as the “Chinese virus” or “Chinese flu,” as Donald Trump and former international trade minister Stockwell Day have done. This includes 64% of British Columbians.
In any case, Canadians are not amused. Two-thirds (66%) believe the government of the People’s Republic of China should take responsibility for its role in the COVID-19 outbreak, while only 23% disagree with this point of view.
Conservative voters are more likely to call for an expression of contrition from Beijing (76%) than those who cast ballots for the Liberal Party (66%) or the New Democratic Party (NDP) (61%) in last year’s election.
When asked to ponder if the government of Canada should consider launching legal action against the People’s Republic of China on account of the COVID-19 outbreak, the numbers are different. More than half of Canadians (52%) disagree with such a move from Ottawa, while 32% are in favour of it.
The prospect of personal economic losses may be the motivating factor for three demographic groups to be more lawsuit-friendly right now: Conservative voters (42%), Quebecers (41%) and Canadians aged 35 to 54 (37%).
Finally, more than two-thirds of Canadians (68%) agree with governments around the world implementing a ban on “wet markets” that sell live animals for human consumption—similar to the one in Wuhan where COVID-19 seems to have originated. In British Columbia, the proportion of residents who would end “wet markets” worldwide is the highest in Canada at 75%.
In this early stage of the crisis, most Canadians are rallying behind their elected politicians. As our daily lives become more affected, there will be opportunities to see if the numbers hold. Right now, the political hostility is concentrated on a foreign government—not an ethnicity—and is also expressed in a desire to ditch one of the ways mankind is still commercializing with wildlife.
Mario Canseco is president of Research Co.
Results are based on an online study conducted March 21–22, 2020, 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.