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Climate Storms Back as Top Issue for Canadian Voters

Environment and climate has re-emerged as a top issue for Canadian voters, while urgency around the COVID-19 pandemic declines, as the country gets ever closer to an expected federal election this summer or fall, according to data released this week by the non-profit Angus Reid Institute.

“Even as recently as June, the coronavirus response was the second-highest priority for the public,” Angus Reid writes. Now, with nearly 80% of the eligible population at least partially vaccinated, “just one in five Canadians say it is among their top three broad concerns for the country. In its stead, health care and climate change have risen to their own level of heightened priority, followed by key economic issues.”

The survey of 1,625 respondents showed the two top issues—environment/climate and health care—hitting the top-three list for 36% of voters, with the economy following at 31%. Coronavirus/COVID-19 response came in ninth on a list of 11 issues, at 19%. “Energy/natural resources/pipelines” placed dead last Canada-wide, at 13%.

The survey, conducted July 14-16, is considered accurate within a margin for error of +/-2%, 19 times out of 20.

The Angus Reid report tracks the prominence of the key vote-determining issues back to the second quarter of 2020, when the pandemic was just beginning. Environment and climate held steady through the entire period in third or fourth place, never showing up below 25 or above 30% of respondents—until this month’s quarterly survey. Over the same time span, First Nations/Indigenous issues rose from below 10% in the second quarter of 2020 to 23% today. The pandemic peaked at about 47% toward the end of last year.

In the latest quarterly results, environment and climate placed first in British Columbia, with 43% of respondents listing it as one of their top three issues, second in Ontario, Quebec, and the Atlantic provinces, and third in Manitoba, at 30%. Energy, resources, and pipelines came in second in Alberta, at 43%, with the economy placing slightly ahead at 45%.

Environment and climate is the top issue for likely Liberal and NDP voters, at 47 and 55%, respectively, and placed second after health care among Bloc Québécois supporters, at 49%, Angus Reid found. It fell below the top three for Conservative Party of Canada voters.

The party standings in the survey show a statistical tie between the Liberals at 33% and the Conservatives at 31%, with the New Democrats at 20%, the Green Party at 3%, and the Bloc picking up 31% in Quebec. Those results contrasted with an Abacus Data poll late last month that showed the Liberals at 37%, the Conservatives at 25%, and the NDP at 20%. Abacus also showed the Liberals, NDP, and Bloc expanding their pool of “accessible voters”—people who might consider voting for them—while the Conservatives and Greens saw their shares decline.