In mid-June, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau attended the G7 meeting in Cornwall, UK, where he met his peers from France, Germany, Italy, Japan, UK , US and EU to discuss post-pandemic recovery.
When it comes to our international political relations, Canada has an exceptional company. In addition, Canada scores very high in numerous international studies on the quality of life, livability, the strength of our public sector and our social support programs, our health system, etc.
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Interestingly, many of the studies in which Canada ranks highest are determined by what citizens of other countries think of Canada. In other words, a lot of the world outside of the country thinks that living in Canada is great.
But what do Canadians think of our current environment and their prospects for the future? Do we recognize and appreciate how well things are going in the country? Do our views reflect those of those who view Canada from afar?
The answer is – not so much. In fact, when we look at the opinions of Canadians in our monthly assessment of 28 countries and compare ourselves to the opinions of global citizens about their own country, we are squarely average.
On Ipsos’ short-term measure of consumer and citizen sentiment, Canadians are at minus seven percent against the 28 country average of plus one percent. Our closest geographic neighbor, the United States, sits at over 14% and has increased in recent times as our opinions remain stagnant.
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On a longer-term measure of socio-political stability, Canada is at zero percent of the 28-country average of minus eight percent. But in the ordinal ranking, this puts us in 10th place out of 28 countries on the extremely important issue of social cohesion which is a necessary ingredient for democracies and economies to thrive.
When it comes to the personal financial health of Canadians, Canadians’ opinions are once again slightly better than the 28-country average, with 24 percent of Canadians booming (compared to 17 percent globally) and 21 percent falling apart. (compared to 22% worldwide). But if we compare ourselves again to the United States, we’re a long way off, with 33 percent of Americans booming and 17 percent falling.
Maybe the opinions of Canadians are correct and Canada is not exceptional. We have a strong international reputation and we should perhaps be happy to be at least average when it comes to our own view of our personal financial situation and our short and long term assessment of our lives and orientation of our country. There is something to be said about not being at the bottom of any of the indicators.
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You would think that despite the country’s average, Canadians should know about our advantages and feel that there is more to be done to improve their lot in life and help others. That is, we would see a socially active population pushing and acting to take advantage of Canada’s strengths to make the world a better place.
But once again, we don’t see much evidence that this is the case through the Ipsos Social Activism Score. Again, Canadians are just average, with 16 percent of Canadians saying they are committed to taking action to improve things like society and the environment (compared to 17 percent globally). Worse yet, 34% of us say we are largely “out of touch” (compared to 33% globally).
When Canadians look at other countries, we do so through the prism of our global wealth and our historical perspective. It inspires pride in the country and a story that most believe – that Canadians live in an exceptional and privileged country.
But when Canadians are asked about their own lives and perspectives, our perspectives change and, overall, we don’t feel very special. As noted above, the short-term outlook for Canadians is much less positive than for citizens of the G7 and much of Europe. In fact, the countries whose citizens’ concerns are closest to the short-term feelings of Canadians are Brazil and Poland.
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When looking at the facts from a health and macroeconomic perspective, Canada appears to be making significant strides towards recovering from the pandemic. However, other concerns are dampening the enthusiasm of Canadians. Before the pandemic, pessimism reigned over the country’s direction, the future of healthcare, the lack of high-quality jobs, overall affordability, and people’s long-term financial prospects. The pandemic has not removed any of these concerns. Instead, it forced Canadians to put those concerns aside as they focused on the shorter-term issues needed to get through the pandemic.
The pandemic also did not give public or private sector institutions across the country time to tackle the systemic issues that preoccupied Canadians in early winter 2020. Instead, the pandemic has exacerbated those issues. , as evidenced by rising house prices and overall affordability. concerns and increased wait times for health care. It also amplified a host of other social issues, from racism to Indigenous reconciliation.
There have been economic gains, but these have mostly benefited those who were already doing well before the pandemic, while those who were the most financially vulnerable continue to be the hardest hit since the start of the pandemic.
With the onset of summer and the increase in vaccination rates, almost everyone is hoping that the pandemic will take hold fully in our rearview mirror and life in Canada will return to normal.
Perhaps today’s low overall sentiment and our average relative to the rest of the world is one of the first indications that this is happening, but it could also be an early indicator of how aware Canadians are about to the challenges that lie ahead.
Mike Colledge is President, Public Affairs of Ipsos Canada.