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Canadians Say Economy Needs to Change

New research shows Canadians want to narrow the gap between the rich and the poor and combine a faster economic recovery with climate action

Thursday, September 22, 2020, Unceded territories of Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh Nations/Vancouver B.C. – Most Canadians think the economy is not working the way it should and many say its needs to be changed to better address climate change and the problem of inequality, according to new research released today by Environics Institute and Vancity.

A Better Canada: Values and Priorities after COVID-19 is a comprehensive study of public opinion on Canadians’ expectations from governments, from corporations and from each other. The survey of more than 3000 Canadians was conducted at the end of August 2020, roughly five months after the COVID-19 pandemic took hold.

Key findings of the report include:

  • A plurality (44%) of Canadians think the way that our economy works needs to be changed ‘fundamentally’. Only five per cent think that the way our economy works is fine the way it is.
  • Three in four (73%) agreeing that the government should reduce the gap between the rich and the poor.
  • One in three Canadians (32%) say they’ve experienced more depression, anxiety or panic attacks as a result of COVD-19, and almost three in ten say they’ve had difficulty sleeping.
  • One in four Canadians (23%) say that they owe a lot more (10%) or a little (13%) more than they can afford in terms of their credit cards and loans (excluding mortgages).
  • Almost two in three (64%) Canadians say they think of taxes as mostly a positive thing because they’re how we pay for the important things that make our quality of life good, such as health care, education and roads – down 11 points since the question was last asked in 2011.
  • Four in five Canadians (82%) favour the idea that corporations have to be responsible to their employees and communities, and that this is as important as profits.
  • Four in five (81%) – including 93 per cent of parents with young children – agree that Canada should be a country where affordable and high-quality daycare for young children is available to all parents who need it.
  • Four in five (82%) Canadians also agree that Canada should be a country with a social safety net that helps everyone facing difficult economic circumstances.
  • 69 per cent of Canadians agree that people who are addicted to drugs should be provided with treatment by the public health care system and not treated like criminals.
  • Canadians remain supportive of the country’s universal, publicly-funded health care system, with almost nine in ten (87%) agreeing – including 57 per cent who strongly agree – that Canada should be a country with a public health system that covers everyone, that is fully supported through taxes
  • A majority of Canadians think that investing more in clean energy technologies and environmentally friendly businesses can make it possible to combine a faster economic recovery with action on climate change.
  • Albertans are more likely to mention both the environment and the need to diversify the economy as reasons why fundamental change to the economy is needed.

Quote from Christine Bergeron, Interim President and CEO, Vancity:

“Rising inequality was a pre-existing condition of the Canadian economy before the pandemic hit but the problem has been laid bare by Covid-19. Our research shows that Canadians want change, and they want action on climate and inequality. We’re at a clutch moment in our history as our governments consider how best to recover from the impact of the Covid crisis. We have the opportunity to build the kind of society Canadians want, one that is greener and more just.”

Quote from Michael Adams, founder and president, Environics Institute for Survey Research:

“This survey finds that Canadians are feeling anxious but also resilient and want to see policies that would better protect those who have borne the brunt of the pandemic’s impact. And rather than fiscal retrenchment, citizens continue to want public spending that promotes social and environmental justice.”

A Better Canada: Values and Priorities after COVID-19 can be found online here.

Environics Institute

The Environics Institute for Survey Research was established by Michael Adams in 2006 to promote relevant and original public opinion and social research on important issues of public policy and social change. It is through such research that organizations and individuals can better understand Canada today, how it has been changing, and where it may be heading. Tweet us at @Environics_Inst and visit us online at

About Vancity

Vancity is a values-based financial co-operative serving the needs of its more than 543,000 member-owners and their communities, with offices and 60 branches located in Metro Vancouver, the Fraser Valley, Victoria, Squamish and Alert Bay, within the unceded territories of the Coast Salish and Kwakwaka’wakw people. With $28.2 billion in assets plus assets under administration, Vancity is Canada’s largest community credit union. Vancity uses its assets to help improve the financial well-being of its members while at the same time helping to develop healthy communities that are socially, economically and environmentally sustainable.

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Media Relations | Vancity
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