Web traffic suggests anticipation for Liberal budget high

According to Google Trends, web search traffic ahead of Tuesday's federal budget was among the highest since 2004. But it was lower than two of the Conservatives' most important budgets in 2006 and 2012. Are Canadians just less worried about what Finance Minister Bill Morneau will say?

But that anticipation is less than Conservative budgets in 2006 and 2012

Anticipation of federal Finance Minister Bill Morneau's first budget is high compared to previous federal budgets. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)

The Liberal government's first federal budget to be presented Tuesday by Finance Minister Bill Morneau is greatly anticipated. But despite the high web search traffic, the numbers suggest the budget might not be as hotly anticipated as some past budgets delivered by the Conservatives.

One reason may be that Canadians aren't too worried about what may or may not be in a budget brought in by a popular government.

According to Google Trends, web search traffic in Canada for the term "federal budget" was higher in February than it was in the month preceding the last three budgets delivered by the Conservatives.

But the number of searches for the federal budget in February 2012 was 1.6 times higher than it was last month, and was 1.4 times higher in April 2006, the month before the Conservatives delivered their first budget after ousting Paul Martin's Liberals earlier that year.

That still makes anticipation for tomorrow's budget, if we can consider web searches to be a barometer of interest, one of the highest in the last 12 years — the period of time measured by Google Trends. Only the 2006 and 2012 budgets scored higher.

But those two budgets were important watershed moments for the Conservatives.

The 2006 budget was the first one presented by a non-Liberal government in over a decade. The 2012 budget was the second presented by the Conservatives after being elected with a majority, but the previous budget (in June 2011) was little different from the March 2011 budget the government presented before being defeated in the House of Commons.

That made the 2012 budget the first one the Conservatives drafted in its entirety within the context of a majority government.

That did not make it the most searched-for budget over the last 12 years, however. Web search traffic was highest in the month of the release of the 2007 federal budget.

And with good reason: both the Liberals and New Democrats signalled their opposition to that budget, and rumours were swirling about an early election call. The budget was only passed with the support of the Bloc Québécois, which was then facing pressure from the Tories in the polls in Quebec.

Another budget that scored highly in web search traffic during the month of its release was the budget of 2009 (presented just after the "coalition crisis"). The next-most searched for were those of 2012 and 2006.

Former Parliamentary Budget Officer Kevin Page explains what to look for in the budget 5:31

Is anticipation the same as consternation?

Why might this Liberal budget be less anticipated than the budgets presented by the Conservatives in 2006 and 2012?

One possibility could be that there is less concern about what might or might not be included in the budget than there was when the Conservatives were in power, as the current Liberal government is the most popular government to be presenting a budget since at least 2004.

A new Abacus Data poll pegs the Liberals to have the support of 44 per cent of Canadians. With the exception of early 2011, the Conservatives never had more than 38 per cent support (on average) in the month that they presented a budget. 

In 2006, the newly elected Conservatives had 38 per cent support. At the time of the 2012 budget, that had slipped to 35 per cent.

In addition, the polling from Abacus Data suggests that a majority of Canadians approve of the government's performance (52 per cent, with 27 per cent disapproval), and 70 per cent agree that Justin Trudeau has "proven up to handling the responsibility" of being prime minister.

On the economy, Abacus found that 69 per cent of Canadians believe that Trudeau is doing anything from a very good to an acceptable job. Two-thirds said the same about his handling of the federal budget, a drop of just four points since January, before the Liberals announced that their deficit projections had ballooned to the tune of at least $18 billion.

So it could be that Canadians aren't as interested in Tuesday's budget simply because a large portion of them aren't too worried about what the Liberals will do. Once they know the details, however, that may change.

The poll by Abacus Data was conducted between March 16 and 18, 2016, interviewing 1,500 adult Canadians via the internet. A probabilistic sample of this size would yield a margin of error of +/- 2.6 per cent, 19 times out of 20.

About the Author

Éric Grenier

Politics and polls

Éric Grenier is a senior writer and the CBC's polls analyst. He was the founder of ThreeHundredEight.com and has written for The Globe and Mail, Huffington Post Canada, The Hill Times, Le Devoir, and L’actualité.


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