COVID has people preoccupied with the economy and health. However, support for a wide range of clean infrastructure choices is broad across Canada.
New Abacus Data-Clean Energy Canada polling reveals that the current economic and health challenges have done little or nothing to diminish support for infrastructure changes that will create a cleaner Canadian economy in the future.
When asked how the pandemic affected their thoughts on the climate change issue, an equal number said that they were more convinced than ever that a change towards a cleaner economy was possible as said these ideas should come behind concerns with the economy and health.
A total of 11% have never favoured action to fight climate change, a view more common among Albertans (20%), men 60 or older (17%) and Conservative Party supporters (23%). Another 32% say that COVID makes them feel we must concentrate first on health and the economy and be less preoccupied with climate, again led by Albertans (37%) and Conservatives (43%).
However, a majority say “even with COVID we must not back away from efforts to combat climate change” (26%) or “COVID makes me more convinced than ever that we can and should make changes now in how we live and work, that help fight climate change”. This last sentiment is led by women under 40 (39%) and has above average support from NDP, Liberal, Green and BQ voters.
When it comes to about a dozen different specific policy ideas for infrastructure, all of the items tested found more than 80% support or acceptance – opposition in no case exceeds 18%.
(Not all the items tested in terms of infrastructure improvements had to do with achieving environmental or climate goals; we included some items that were linked to the changed experience of living within the context of the COVID-19 pandemic.)
Here are the key findings:
• 95% are open to or supportive of the idea of improving broadband, transit and clean energy infrastructure to help attract companies to invest in Canada.
• Almost as many like the idea of “more space for walking and cycling without fear of vehicles”. This is an agenda item that is gathering momentum in many places in the world and 91% of Canadians would go along with or favour changes of this sort.
• 94% endorse or would go along with efforts to promote Canadian minerals and metals for use in clean technologies and Canadian forest products as low-carbon building and packaging solutions.
• The growing interest in electric vehicles is notable. 85% are open to the idea of using incentives to attract electric vehicle manufacturing to Canada, 88% to a cross-Canada network of fast-charging stations, and 91% are interested in the idea of Canada as the world leader in electric buses.
• When it comes to transit, a majority (53%) would favour and another 30% go along with the idea of making transit ridership free to help reduce traffic congestion and emissions.
• Underlining the fact that many Canadians have been using the Internet a lot more during the pandemic, fully 96% would go along with or favour investments to make broadband internet service ubiquitous. Support for this idea is roughly equal whether described as a way to attract investment and jobs to every part of Canada or a way to ensure equal opportunity for everyone in the country.
• Canadians are also almost unanimously open to ways of making our ports promote lower carbon shipping and promoting hydrogen as a cleaner fuel source for trucking and steel manufacturing.
In short, the results of this survey work underscore that Canadians are open to a broad range of ideas that can help position Canada to attract investment and succeed in an economy of the future that is more oriented towards cleaner economic activity. They are also very interested in ideas that can help strengthen community opportunity and quality of life.
“The pandemic could have made people feel that green infrastructure was not really a practical approach – but these results confirm that the instinct to move in this direction is strong. It’s clearly not just a way to improve the health of the planet, but people see these ideas as a good way to attract new business investment and to make communities more enjoyable and thriving places to live. ”
—Bruce Anderson, Chairman, Abacus Data
“Canadians clearly see that we have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to rebuild a better Canada. Our recovery measures must be resilient. Our future economy must be sustainable. Gone are the days of pitting climate against the economy. Canadians know where real opportunity lies, and we know – now more than ever – just how costly a global crisis can be.”
—Merran Smith, Executive Director, Clean Energy Canada
The survey was conducted online with 1,800 Canadian adults from May 14th to 17th, 2020.
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 +/- 2.31%, 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.
Merran Smith and Bruce Anderson are available for interviews.
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