Canadians’ Attitudes Towards Interprovincial Free Trade

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The purpose of this market research study, which consists of a qualitative and quantitative phase, is to provide insights on the motivations and opinions of individuals across Canada so that the Canadian Constitution Foundation, as well as other organizations involved in the Canadian free-market movement, may develop communicational strategies attuned to the needs and wants of the population, resulting in more efficient, convincing and impactful communicational efforts.

The topic of this project is by no means limited to the issues surrounding Interprovincial Free Trade, but also seeks to understand the respondents’ views and motivations on broader public policy issues, such as health care reform, public finances, development of natural resources and taxation, to name but a few.

The qualitative phase of this study, which is exploratory in nature, was used to gather insights in a mostly open-ended fashion in order to feed the questionnaire creation process of the online quantitative phase: this report presents the findings and insights of the quantitative phase.

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Executive Summary

  • While 73% of Canadians feel they are knowledgeable when it comes to politics, 61% feel they have not learned enough about politics in high school, resulting in 80% believing schools should do a better job. Similarly, while 67% feel they are knowledgeable when it comes to economics, 71% feel they have not learned enough about economics in high school, resulting in 86% believing schools should do a better job. These results are in line with the qualitative phase, where ensuring Canadians are better informed in terms of politics and economics is desirable. The free market movement should initiate public discussions on the benefits of a highly educated population in terms of politics and economics.
  • Canadians’ top three areas of concern are health care, the economy and public safety, putting the economy as the second most important item. On that topic, slightly more than half the Canadian population (53%) is generally in agreement with the Federal Government’s decisions in terms of the economy, a majority which still leaves a significant portion of the population dissatisfied, or uncertain.
  • 61% of Canadians believe more government intervention and regulation results in a healthier economy and 41% believe more is currently required in order to achieve a healthier economy. These results are in line with what was observed during the qualitative phase, but that phase also established that Canadians are ill-informed about the various forms of interventions and regulations, and can very quickly change their opinions when presented with unintended consequences of said interventions and regulations. Once again, education is key.
  • While “Interprovincial Free Trade” is a term unknown to half the Canadian population, the overwhelming majority of Canadians (89%) believes interprovincial free trade is important. In the same line of thought, 52% of Canadians believe it is inappropriate for the various levels of governments to impose trade barriers on Canadians. This once again brings to the forefront the importance of educating the Canadian population on the nature and unintended consequences of government intervention and regulation of the economy.
  • Once exposed to a series of pro interprovincial free trade statements, a series of anti interprovincial free trade statements, as well as a series of case scenarios describing or inferring the potentially negative consequences of government interventions and regulations, 76% of Canadians believe Canada should reduce interprovincial trade barriers if it can help foster a stronger economy, and a majority (79%) supports reducing interprovincial trade barriers in Canada. This only reinforces the conclusions of the qualitative phase, where informing and educating the population on simple economics facts can drastically alter their stance on political and economical concepts.
  • The pro interprovincial free trade statements tested garnered significant support from the Canadian population, but statements mentioning “without paying additional tariffs or taxes” seemed to get more traction than others. In terms of anti interprovincial free trade, those addressing topics such as self-determination and protectionism seemed popular with roughly half the population, especially with Francophones. This tends to indicate that these pro talking points can efficiently be used to exhort interprovincial free trade, and that as long as they address potential self-determination or protectionist rebuttals, are in a good position to sway the opinions of the Canadian population.
  • In terms of taxes and income taxes, 56% of Canadians are dissatisfied with the ways their taxes and income taxes are being used, while 44% are dissatisfied with the value they get for their money. Accordingly, the majority of Canadians (79%) agree that the various levels of governments could better use tax dollars and provide better levels of services, even to the extent where 65% believe the governments could provide better levels of services with lower budgets. It is interesting to note that while Canadians wish governments would first and foremost use budgetary surpluses to invest in health care services, the desire to have their taxes lowered is also very high.
  • On the topic of COVID-19, 47% of Canadians reported being financially affected either directly, or through one of their household members. While overall, Canadians are satisfied with the various levels of government’s responses to the COVID-19 pandemic, they are split when it comes to assessing the strategies used to address it. More specifically, four Canadians out of five are worried about the state of Canadian public finances following the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • In terms of political affiliation, it is interesting to note that 17% of the Canadian population identifies with no specific political party, representing untapped potential for any political party or organization that decides to investigate further into their needs and wants. For all the differences between the general population and the OCOM respondents, it is interesting to note that their ideal political party is surprisingly similar IE honest, equitable, concerned and transparent.
  • As will become apparent when reading the detailed results, while some segments of the Canadian population tend to have very strong opposing tendencies in how they answer, such as 18-34 years old versus 65 years+, some segments such as females, people with a completed high school or less, people who are single / separated / divorced / widowed, people who are unemployed and people who earn 0$ to $49,999 are much more likely to answer “I do not know” to more specific questions pertaining to politics and economics. While expressing their lack of knowledge cannot be directly interpreted as a desire to learn more on the topics of politics and economics, it does show that these segments have not taken position on many topics and therefore might be more easily swayed in favor of interprovincial free trade should they be better informed.

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