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Opinion  

Fewer Canadians believe the worst of COVID-19 is behind us

Not over yet

The proportion of Canadians who envision a quick end to the Covid-19 pandemic has reduced drastically since the middle of the summer, a new Research Co. poll has found.

In the online survey of a representative national sample, just under half of Canadians (48%) believe the worst of the pandemic is behind us, down 24 points since a similar Research Co. survey was conducted in July.

Conversely, more than a third of Canadians (36%, +21) think that the worst of Covid-19 is ahead of us.

Almost two thirds of Canadians aged 18-to-34 (64%) believe that the Covid-19 situation will not worsen. Significantly smaller proportions of Canadians aged 35-to-54 (50%) and aged 55 and over (39%) hold the same view.

More than four-in-five Canadians (84%) consider the COVID-19 pandemic as a real threat, while 12% disagree and 4% are undecided. Fewer than one-in-five Canadians who voted for the Liberal Party (5%), the New Democratic Party (NDP) (6%) and the Conservative Party (16%) in this month’s federal election suggest Covid-19 is not a real threat.

The proportion of “pandemic skeptics” is now 22% among Canadians who cast ballots for the Green Party and 58% among those who supported the People’s Party.

More than half of all Canadians (55%, -6) are satisfied with the way the federal government in Ottawa has dealt with Covid-19—including majorities of those who reside in Atlantic Canada (60%), Quebec (60%), Ontario (56%) and British Columbia (51%). Satisfaction is slightly lower this month for the way in which municipal governments (60%, -3) and provincial governments (56%, -6) have performed during the pandemic.

At least two thirds of residents of Quebec (67%, -4) and British Columbia (66%, -5) are satisfied with the way their provincial administrations have managed Covid-19, along with half of those in Ontario (50%, -1).

The situation is extremely different in Alberta, where only 26% of residents are satisfied with the provincial administration on this file. This represents a 20-point decrease since July and the lowest level recorded for a government of any level since Research Co. started asking this question in March 2020.

Seven-in-10 Canadians (71%) agree with allowing K-12 students to go back to in-class learning in their province. Support for this measure is highest in Saskatchewan and Manitoba (79%), followed by Ontario (72%), Quebec (71%), British Columbia (69%), Atlantic Canada (65%) and Alberta (61%).

More than four-in-five Canadians (84%) are in favour of requiring all customers or visitors entering an indoor premise to wear a mask or face covering while inside.

Mario Canseco is president of Research Co.

Results are based on an online study conducted on Sept. 18 and 19, 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 +/- 3.1 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.



Uncertainty a certainty for post-vaccination office environment

Uncertainty a certainty

Six months ago, Research Co. and Glacier Media asked employed British Columbians about their work expectations during and after a pandemic. At the time, COVID-19 was still a prevalent concern for many Canadians, and skepticism about the federal government’s ability to implement a proper vaccine rollout was rampant.

As the fall season begins, businesses across the country are implementing plans for a return to the office, aided by significant milestones that seemed unattainable half a year ago. Practically every willing Canadian has been inoculated against COVID-19. British Columbia is implementing a “vaccine passport” for specific activities, a concept that has been extremely popular across the province.

Back in March, employed British Columbians were not thrilled about a return to the office. This month, we chose to review the current state of affairs and found some numbers slightly shifting into the perceptions of the workplace that we had in our pre-pandemic existence.

British Columbians continue to expect some of the new features of their jobs to remain in place once workplaces are reopen, but not with the same intensity that we observed six months ago. Just over two in five employees (43%) believe they will attend more virtual staff meetings through audio or video conferencing, down seven points since March. There is also a reduction in the expectation of virtual business development (41%, down six points) and virtual communications between offices (43%, down three points).

At the same time, there is some change when it comes to the traditional ways of conducting business. Fewer respondents believe they will be asked to attend in-person staff meetings (42%, down five points). There is also a drop in the expectation of in-person business development meetings (38%, down five points) and reduced business travel between offices (37%, down seven points).

In spite of the high vaccination rates, a significant number of British Columbians remain in the dark about what their office will ultimately look like. We found that 45% of employed residents of the province have been informed about plans to return to their workplace, up 13 points since March. There is also an increase in how many have been advised about the guidelines to continue to work from home, from 32% in March to 40% this month.

While these findings may indicate that the public is moving closer to a world where commuting to the office is again the norm, there are some significant fluctuations on the idea of working from home even when the pandemic is officially over.

In March, 38% of employed British Columbians told us they expected to work from home for three days a week or more once COVID-19 is gone. This month, the proportion has jumped to 47%. Some workplaces are making sure that they can receive employees, but a significant proportion of them have grown to love their current situation.

This brings us back to the complex matter of worker loyalty. In March, 49% of employed British Columbians told us they would be likely to seek a different position if their current company does not allow them to work from home as often as they want. This month, the proportion has risen to 56%.

There is a significant generation gap on this issue. While employed British Columbians aged 55 and over do not see working from home as a deal-breaker (38%), the proportion rises to 55% among those aged 35 to 54 and to 65% among those aged 18 to 34. This is a number that cannot be easily ignored by human resources departments: two-thirds of the province’s youngest employees will look elsewhere if their bosses do not grant them the flexibility they crave.

The survey provides good and bad news for businesses across B.C. On the one hand, some workers are already envisioning a world without virtual communications and a return to usual business development practices. On the other, if the right opportunity came along to work from home more often, employees – especially those in the youngest two age groups – would walk away. The challenge for employers will be to make the post-pandemic workplace more attractive, whether through amenities, in-person attendance bonuses or company culture, than the kitchen table.

Mario Canseco is president of Research Co.

Results are based on an online study conducted on September 5 and September 6, 2021, among 700 adults who work in British Columbia. The data has been statistically weighted according to Canadian census figures for age, gender and region in British Columbia. The margin of error, which measures sample variability, is plus or minus 3.7 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.



Opinion: We get the judges we put up with

The judges we put up with

Around 9:30 p.m. on Aug. 23, an Esquimalt woman screamed as she saw a man trying to climb through her bedroom window.

Though he persisted, she managed to keep him out until a group of neighbours stepped in and held him till the police arrived.

The intruder was taken into custody, and charged with trespassing and assault.

The next day, he appeared before a provincial court judge who immediately released him on bail.

Henry Mario Hueving is 63 years old. He has a string of convictions reaching back to 2004. His offences include kidnapping and sexual assault. The kidnapping incident took place in Esquimalt.

Local residents are understandably ­outraged that a man with this history, caught in the act of breaking into a woman’s ­bedroom, was set free the next day.

Yet this is by no means an unprecedented or even rare display of judicial disregard for public safety.

Last year, a 23-year-old Burnaby man who had drugged, bound and raped a 17-year-old girl was sentenced to 12 months for sexual assault, and two months for child pornography (he had recorded the girl’s five-hour ordeal on his cellphone).

Unbelievable? Yes. (And in fairness, an appeal court judge upped his sentence ­somewhat). But what to do?

Some U.S. states require judges to run for election, meaning non-performers can be unelected next time around. I wouldn’t want that option — judges should be free to render decisions safe from the passions or politics of the moment.

At the same time, it does appear the ­protections we’ve erected around the ­judiciary have distanced them from any effective form of pushback by the community.

Technically, there is a formal procedure for removing judges. If a complaint is raised against a federally appointed judge, it is heard by the Canadian Judicial ­Council. Though notably, every member of the council is a judge — a classic case of the fox minding the chicken house.

In the event of serious misconduct, the council can recommend to the justice ­minister that the judge be removed. If the minister agrees, both houses of Parliament must give their approval.

Not surprisingly, however, given how high the bar is set, only a handful of federal judges have been removed over the years, and then almost always for misconduct that involved either criminal behaviour, or ­serious ethical lapses. I don’t believe any federal judge has ever been unseated for falling short of the community’s ­expectations.

Much the same process applies in the case of provincial judges, with one exception. Some provinces appoint lay people to their judicial councils. B.C.’s council comprises nine members, five of whom are judges, while four are lay people.

Otherwise the procedure is the same — a provincial judge can only be removed on the recommendation of that jurisdiction’s ­judicial council, followed by an order of the provincial cabinet.

As before, such actions are rarer than hens’ teeth, and again, only when serious misconduct is involved.

In short, there is no realistic likelihood of a judge being disciplined or removed merely for giving inadequate thought to the safety or well-being of the community. And of course, given their huge benefit packages, it’s unlikely they live in a part of town where the safety of local residents is most at risk.

What we can say is that judges, insulated though they are, can hardly be unaffected by expressions of public outrage at their ­decisions. In short, it’s up to us to speak out and demand at least some connection between the values of our judiciary and the values of the people they are sworn to protect.

It’s said we get the kind of governments we deserve. In this instance, we get the kind of judicial decision-making we put up with.

Lawrie McFarlane is a columnist with the Victoria Times Colonist



Most Canadians support boycott of Winter Olympics in Beijing: poll

Support for Olympic boycott

The Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympics, which actually took place in 2021, were unique in many respects.

The COVID-19 pandemic originally forced the postponement of the contest, and ultimately led to competitions that were held without spectators. The customary image of the Summer Games – a 16-day party featuring attendees from all over the world – never materialized.

In March, Research Co. and Glacier Media asked Canadians about their expectations for the Tokyo Olympics. At the time, almost half of Canadians (49%) considered that it would not be safe to hold the games in the summer of 2021, and 65% endorsed the decision to forbid foreign spectators from going to the events.

Late last month, we found that 58% of Canadians watched at least some television coverage of the most recent Summer Olympics. This includes majorities of residents of

British Columbia (61%), Ontario (60%), Quebec (58%), Atlantic Canada (53%), Saskatchewan and Manitoba (also 53%) and Alberta (51%).

When we asked Olympics watchers about their level of enthusiasm for the latest Summer Games, almost two in five (38%) said they did not watch as much as they did in previous editions. There is a significant age divide, with almost half of Canadians aged 55 and over (46%) saying they were not as glued to their television sets or tablets as they were when the Olympics were held in Rio de Janeiro, London or Beijing.

One of the features that was supposed to make these Olympics more desirable to viewers came in the form of web streaming. There was a wide array of options for sports fans to browse, either live or on tape delay, by clicking on the right websites. Streaming served as a welcome addition for many Canadians, given that some marquee events took place at a moment when most of us were asleep.

As expected, younger viewers were more likely to take advantage of these new options. On average, Canadians spent 24% of their Olympic viewing time web streaming (12% of it live and 12% of it watching sports on tape delay). However, the amount of time Canadians aged 18 to 34 streamed reached 22% for live coverage and 17% for tape-delayed events.

Still, more than half of the time spent by Canadians watching Tokyo 2020 (52%) happened on live broadcast television, a proportion that rises to 58% among Canadians aged 55 and over. Tape-delayed broadcasts on television amounted for the remaining 24% of viewing time. Canadians did not have to deal with this situation as much when the Winter Games were held in Salt Lake City and Vancouver.

The survey shows that broadcasters will need to rely on a mix of broadcast and streaming to attract viewers of all ages. The level of attention that Canadians bestowed on these Olympics was lower than in previous editions. There were extremely compelling stories arising out of these games, particularly on swimming, track and soccer. Some Canadians had a tough time either enjoying these feats live or finding the right tools to watch them outside of the realm of broadcast television.

In less than five months, the Winter Olympics will start in Beijing. Canada’s broadcasters will face challenges similar to the ones they just experienced in Tokyo – a young public that will find it easier to browse online for the events they want to enjoy, and an older population that continues to watch events live but may find it difficult to do so because of the time difference.

Along with the Tokyo questions, we asked Canadians whether Canada should boycott the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing over China’s human rights record. As was the case in March, a majority of Canadians (56%, up two points) remain in favour of keeping our athletes home.

Support for a boycott of next year’s Winter Games remains higher among men (61%, up four points) and Canadians aged 55 and over (60%, down one point). Once again, majorities of residents across all regions believe that a boycott is the right course of action, from a low of 52% in Quebec to a high of 61% in Alberta.

It is important to note that our survey was completed before the National Hockey League (NHL) announced a deal to allow its players to participate in the 2022 Olympics. It remains to be seen whether the allure of enjoying a single event that made Canadians very happy in 2002, 2010 and 2014 will alter the national mood that has remained consistent this year about boycotting the Beijing Winter Games.

Mario Canseco is president of Research Co.

Results are based on an online study conducted from August 28 to August 30, 2021, among 1,000 adults in Canada. The data has been statistically weighted according to Canadian census figures for age, gender and region in Canada. The margin of error, which measures sample variability, is plus or minus 3.1 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.



O’Toole leads poll on foreign policy, Trudeau tops on crime, health care

What leader, what policy?

There are many reasons to select a party in a Canadian federal election.

Some voters look at policy platforms, while others concentrate on the local candidates. The personality traits of party leaders, while not as crucial here as they are in countries that operate under a presidential system, can deeply affect the outcome of an election.

In September 2019, when we asked Canadians about the best leader to handle specific tasks, Prime Minister and Liberal Party leader Justin Trudeau had a sizable advantage on health care, housing homelessness and poverty, and foreign affairs. The incumbent was essentially tied with then Conservative leader Andrew Scheer on four other issues: public safety, economy and jobs, energy and pipelines, and accountability and leadership.

Now, almost two years after that measurement, the supposedly untested Erin O’Toole is doing better than his predecessor. In the latest Research Co. and Glacier Media survey, the Conservative leader is ahead of Trudeau as the most competent manager of the economy and jobs (34%), energy and pipelines (32%), and accountability and leadership (27%).

Trudeau maintains the upper hand on other issues, such as crime and public safety (32%), immigration (30%), health care (29%) and the environment (28%). New Democratic Party (NDP) leader Jagmeet Singh is the preferred leader to manage housing, homelessness and poverty (27%). Housing is a major concern in the urban ridings located in Metro Vancouver and the Greater Toronto Area, where the Liberals are defending seats that are currently held by federal cabinet ministers.

One finding is particularly striking. On foreign affairs, where experienced prime ministers have the advantage of shaking hands with foreign dignitaries, Trudeau and O’Toole are tied with 30%. It is also noteworthy that O’Toole is seen as a better person to negotiate with U.S. President Joe Biden on trade and security issues (34%), lead the federal government in the event of a terrorist attack (32%) and negotiate with Russia over Arctic sovereignty (31%). This is unusual. When I asked similar questions during the 2011 federal campaign, Jack Layton and Michael Ignatieff were nowhere near Stephen Harper on these three matters.

Liberal supporters might take solace in the fact that Canadians prefer Trudeau to be the Prime Minister in the event of another Quebec referendum (31%) and to represent Canada at global climate change talks (30%). The Liberal leader scores highly on other characteristics, leading his rivals on being the one person Canadians would have a drink with at the local bar (28%), invite to their sports team (also 28%), rely on as a babysitter (25%) and invite to their trivia quiz team (23%, with Singh close behind at 21%).

While Singh is not ahead on any of the personality categories, he is virtually tied with Trudeau on being the person Canadians would have a coffee or tea with (27%, with Trudeau at 26%) and who would provide a good recommendation on a book to read (22%, with Trudeau at 21%).

The survey serves as a good explanation for the recent polling numbers that saw a dwindling Liberal lead and a resurgent Conservative Party. O’Toole is clearly not the person Canadians would call upon for conversation, culture or stamina. But, on several policy concerns, he holds a sizable lead over the current prime minister and the leader of a party that has never formed the federal government.

Trudeau has a tough task ahead. While Canadians were consistently satisfied with the way the COVID-19 pandemic was managed, some are ready to look beyond the current government and wonder if the economic recovery will be better managed by a different prime minister. The timing of the campaign was not as ideal as it seemed. At this moment, it is the leader of the opposition who has succeeded in looking “prime ministerial.”

The two televised debates that will take place later this week will feature the leaders of only five federal parties. When we asked Canadians about the decision of the Leaders’ Debate Commission, there was not much sympathy towards two politicians who did not receive an invitation. Canadians are more likely to agree with leaving People’s Party leader Maxime Bernier and Maverick Party leader Jay Hill off the stage (42% and 44% respectively) than to support the addition of two more podiums (33% and 27% respectively).

Finally, we took an early look at the act of voting itself. We found out that 17% of Canadians are thinking of casting their ballots by mail later this month, a proportion that rises to 21% in Alberta and 30% in British Columbia. This last statistic makes sense, as 31% of the votes cast in the last B.C. provincial election were sent by mail. Other areas of the country are not feeling the same impetus to avoid a polling station on Election Day.

Mario Canseco is president of Research Co.

Results are based on an online study conducted from August 28 to August 30, 2021, among 1,000 adults in Canada. The data has been statistically weighted according to Canadian census figures for age, gender and region in Canada. The margin of error, which measures sample variability, is plus or minus 3.1 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.



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