Substantial number of Canadians think provinces are reopening too quickly

27 May 2020 3 min. read
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A substantial number of Canadians think their province is reopening too quickly, according to a recent survey from public relations and public affairs consultancy Hill+Knowlton Strategies (H+K). Opinions differed markedly by province, gender, and age bracket, found the study which was conducted in the first week of May.

Though 56% of Canadians said the pace of their province’s reopening from Covid-19 restrictions was “just right,” 3 in 10 Canadians thought their provincial leaders were being too hasty in their loosening of lockdown policies.

"Our data shows that 3 in 10 Canadians believe that their province is re-opening either a little too quickly or much too quickly," said Elliott Gauthier, H+K's SVP of data and analytics, and research author. "Those numbers were higher in the provinces of Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, and Quebec, which are generally seen as having announced more aggressive re-opening plans."

Quebec in particular caught negative media attention for its aggressive plans to loosen restrictions despite being the major hotspot for coronavirus cases, alongside Ontario.Substantial number of Canadians think provinces are reopening too quicklyRespondents from the Prairie provinces were most likely to say their government was moving too fast – despite case levels being very low in the region outside of pockets in Calgary. Forty-six percent of Albertans said their province was opening to quickly, while 39% said the pace and timing was “just right” and 14% said it was too slow.

The same proportion of Saskatchewanians and Manitobans said their provinces were opening too quickly (46%), while 49% said the timing was just right and 6% said it was too slow.

Quebeckers were reasonably hesitant, with 44% saying the province was moving too fast.

However, 59% of Ontarians said the pace and timing of reopening was just right, despite the province accounting for much of the country’s cases, and with new daily cases still numbering in the hundreds. Other provinces, such as in the Maritimes, haven’t seen new cases for days.

It’s sensible to question the pace of loosening, as there is nothing close to herd immunity and no vaccine in sight. In Ontario’s case, the province lacks the adequate capability to perform mass testing and effective contact tracing – activities which are imperative to sound health crisis management in a vaccine-less present. The lockdowns were meant to buy time to keep hospitals from overflowing and to build up capacity in testing and tracing. One goal was fulfilled, while the other wasn’t.

That being said, the pandemic situation is very different for someone living in Toronto versus Fort Frances, Ontario. People living in towns far from the GTA could have a very different attitude towards closures, since most of the cases are in major metropolitan centres.

Seventy percent of Atlantic Canadians and 72% of British Columbians – coming from provinces which effectively handled the pandemic and have seen drastically low or reduced case numbers – said they believed the pace of reopening was just right.

Women were more likely to think the pace of reopening was too quick, with 36% saying their province was opening too quickly compared to 24% of men.

Age was also a factor, with younger groups being more likely to say the pace of reopening was too fast. Forty-three percent of respondents aged 18-24 said their province was opening too quickly, compared to 41% of those aged 25-34; 31% of those aged 35-44; 30% of those aged 45-54; 24% of those aged 55-64; and 25% of those aged 65+.

"The demographic trend shows that the younger a person is the more likely they are to think their province is opening back up too quickly," Gauthier said. "This is particularly noteworthy given the widespread reports at the beginning of the pandemic in Canada of younger people being less compliant with physical distancing measures.

“It's also noteworthy that only 1 in 4 seniors in Canada feel this way despite being at a much higher risk statistically. Ultimately, for both groups, this correlates to the degree of trust they have in government institutions; the older you are the more likely you are to trust in your government's plan."