British Columbia

Majority of B.C. residents support major economic shifts post-recovery, poll suggests

A new poll conducted by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives suggests the majority of British Columbians approve of the province's COVID-19 response, but also support a transition toward a more equitable post-pandemic economy.

Most polled support increasing taxes for the wealthy, universal public senior care and paid sick time

A new poll from the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives suggests the majority of British Columbians are happy with the province's approach to handling COVID-19. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

A new poll suggests the majority of British Columbians approve of the province's COVID-19 response, but also support a transition toward a more equitable and sustainable post-pandemic economy.

The online poll conducted by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives showed a strong majority of people across the political spectrum — and across B.C. — believe further government action is key to a successful recovery. 

Alex Hemingway, an economist at the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, said the broad support for several major policy ideas is surprising.

"We see a strong majority saying as we look to the recovery, we don't want to simply rebuild the economy we had, but rebuild a more equitable and sustainable economy," he said. "And 73 per cent want to see that."

Of those surveyed, 83 per cent supported a transition to a system for universal public senior care, and 77 per cent supported paid sick time for all workers. As well, 67 per cent were in favour of increasing social assistance rates to above the poverty line.

"People are recognizing, as part of the result of the pandemic itself and the economic difficulties that it's created, how connected all our fates are and how dependent we are on each other," Hemingway said.

Seventy per cent of those surveyed supported increasing taxation on corporations and on the wealthy — a viewpoint that was also notable in polling conducted before the pandemic.

"I think one thing that suggests that these results will be robust over time is that you see consistency in the appetite to tax wealth and corporations during the pandemic and also pre-pandemic," said Hemingway.

"It may be a case that those issues have been brought to prominence and those opinions will crystallize over time."

Concern around childcare

The British Columbia government is forecasting a $12.5 billion deficit due to the COVID-19 pandemic, five months after the provincial budget featured a marginal surplus.  Yet 77 per cent of respondents said they believe the province is on the right track.

The survey also revealed that many British Columbians are worried about the pandemic's impacts on themselves and others — but that stresses are unequally distributed.

For example, respondents with lower and middle household incomes (under $100,000) were significantly more likely to be concerned about collective well-being compared to those with higher incomes (over $100,000). People with annual household incomes under $40,000 were most likely to be concerned about their own personal situations.

But with respect to child care support, concern was evenly spread up the household income ladder to $100,000.

A report from the centre that summarizes results also shows many people are worried about access to mental health support, access to health care — and even food.

"People working part-time jobs, those who rely on disability income, students, and those who are unemployed are also more likely to be worried about their mental health compared to those with full-time work, run a small business or who are retired," reads the report.

"These same groups are also most likely to be concerned about the pandemic's impact on their ability to obtain adequate food or groceries."

The poll also revealed women were more likely to be concerned about a rise in domestic violence as a result of the pandemic.

"I think it's clear that there are some very gendered elements to the crisis that we're in," Hemingway said, adding that a large percentage of men also expressed concern about gender-based violence.

The online poll surveyed 2,289 B.C. residents aged 18 or over from May 16 to June 1. A comparable margin of error for a probability-based sample of this size would be +/-2.3%. percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

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