Poll suggests only 9% of Canadians remember infrastructure spending as budget initiative

When Finance Minister Bill Morneau stood up in the House of Commons Tuesday to announce he would be dumping tens of billions in additional money into an already hefty infrastructure plan, he had polling data to back up his move.

36% of Canadians polled think Liberals are on the right economic track

Finance Minister Bill Morneau's spoke on Tuesday of the government's plans to invest in infrastructure. (Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press)

When Finance Minister Bill Morneau stood up in the House of Commons Tuesday to announce he would be adding tens of billions in additional money into an already hefty infrastructure plan, he had more than just conviction driving him.

The Liberal government also had polling that suggested infrastructure spending was the most memorable part of a largely forgettable economic plan.

The poll was conducted in June and the questions suggest that even then the government wanted to explore just how enthusiastic Canadians were about infrastructure spending. CBC News obtained the poll and analysis from the Privy Council office under the Access to Information Act.

It had a least two pieces of unfortunate information for the Liberals. When asked whether the government of Canada was on the right track on a list of issues, Justin Trudeau's team got the lowest scores for the economy (36 per cent) and jobs (33 per cent).

And there was more bad news about the government's fiscal plans. A whopping 68 per cent of those surveyed in June couldn't remember or weren't aware of a single initiative from the March budget.

The most memorable item was "increased infrastructure spending," which only nine per cent of respondents mentioned unprompted. On its heels was the budget deficit at seven per cent. The Liberals' much-vaunted "benefits for families" were remembered by six per cent of respondents.

The poll was also designed to find out what Canadians thought were the best reasons for investing in infrastructure. They were presented with one of two sets of statements about the positive effects of the Liberals' plan and asked to what degree they agreed.

The results show that the most common responses were that it would create construction jobs in the short term (70 per cent) and help grow the economy (64 per cent).

Both ideas were reflected directly in Morneau's Tuesday speech tabling the economic update.

"The investments we have made in the infrastructure needs of our cities and communities create jobs today, while building up Canada's economy in the future," he told Canadians.

Could infrastructure win over skeptics?

Many of those polled also believed infrastructure spending would create long-term jobs. However, only 38 per cent believed the infrastructure investments would benefit them directly and less than half thought it would improve traffic in their community.

Another page of the document released by the Privy Council Office focused specifically on how those who believed the government was on the wrong track reacted to the infrastructure questions.

Overall they were noticeably less convinced of the benefits of the Liberals' infrastructure spending plan. The idea of creating short-term jobs was still the most resonant (52 per cent) but more than half of respondents did not agree with any of the other options.

Wide-ranging survey

When it came to telling the government what its top priority should be, the most popular answer was the economy. Combined with the issue of jobs, it was the top response for 25 per cent of those surveyed. Next was health at 12 per cent.

The majority of Canadians gave a passing grade when asked whether the government was on the right track. The exception was Alberta, where there were more negative responses than positive.

Under the title "management of issues," Trudeau's Liberals got the highest marks for the way they have dealt with the question of national security. Next was the environment, followed by medical aid in dying.

There were two issues that more than half of respondents said they were paying attention to: medical aid in dying and marijuana legalization. At the time the polling was done, the federal government was racing to meet a Supreme Court imposed deadline to create assisted-dying legislation.

When asked about level of confidence in the Senate, Manitoba and Saskatchewan were most supportive, with 35 per cent expressing confidence. The Senate's support was lowest in Alberta at 29 per cent. Countrywide, support came in at 30 per cent.

The poll, conducted by public opinion research firm Elemental Data Collection Inc. at a cost of $122,859, surveyed 2,009 Canadians between June 3 and June 30 and has a margin of error of 2.2 per cent, 19 times out of 20. The data was weighted to ensure it reflects the actual population.


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