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Each day during the 2021 Federal Election campaign, researchers at Abacus Data will share insights and analysis from our polling in concise, insights-focused reports. To never miss our polls and analysis, subscribe to our newsletter.

By David Coletto 

Although many Canadians say they are financially better off or have not been impacted by the pandemic, the cost of living is clearly the top issue for most people as this election campaign kicks off.

Last week we released some new data with the Broadbent Institute and the Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada about the role affordability, tax fairness, and paying for the pandemic may have in the campaign.

In our own pre-election survey, we find that 62% of respondents ranked the cost of living as one of the top 5 issues that will drive their vote this election. This is higher than any other issue and has increased by 7-points since this point of the 2019 federal election campaign.

But the cost of living isn’t the only “affordability” issue respondents rank high. We also see taxes, housing, and the cost of prescription drugs as being important to at least 1 in 4 eligible voters.

A recent study we did for the Ontario Real Estate Association finds that housing affordability is a top issue for people in Ontario and a sizeable portion of young residents are reconsidering where they live with many looking to leave the big cities or the province altogether.

And the power of affordability as an issue is that it crosses the political spectrum. It is the top issue for Conservative and NDP voters and the second-highest among Liberal voters (climate change is the top issue for Liberals – more to come on that later this week).


Affordability may not ultimately become the ballot question in this campaign, but there’s no doubt that Canadians are feeling the squeeze as prices for almost everything rise due to supply shortages and other macroeconomic factors.

Political leaders and candidates can expect to be asked their plans on the cost of living as household budgets get squeezed and perceptions of this problem increase. In this environment, there’s absolutely no appetite for tax increases (except on the wealthiest Canadians).

For businesses and associations that represent them, there will be pressure on policymakers to ease this pressure and as we have found in the past, there’s broad support for policy tools that force companies to lower their prices.

The 2019 campaign started as the affordability election. Will the 2021 one repeat that?


The survey was conducted with 3,000 Canadian adults from August 6 to 11, 2021. A random sample of panelists were invited to complete the survey from a set of partner panels based on the Lucid exchange platform. These partners are typically double opt-in survey panels, blended to manage out potential skews in the data from a single source.

The margin of error for a comparable probability-based random sample of the same size is +/- 1.8%, 19 times out of 20.

The data were weighted according to census data to ensure that the sample matched Canada’s population according to age, gender, educational attainment, and region. Totals may not add up to 100 due to rounding.

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