Inflation, health care, the ‘Freedom Convoy’ and more: ARI Top Five Stories of 2022

Inflation, health care, the ‘Freedom Convoy’ and more: ARI Top Five Stories of 2022

Story One – Economic Woes and Inflation

While the year began with widespread health concerns, as the Omicron variant of COVID-19 spread, it was largely defined by financial worry. Inflation rose to a 39-year high of 8.1 per cent in June, before tapering slightly but holding at close to seven per cent for the rest of the year. For many Canadians, this meant persistent challenges in making ends meet, cutting back on streaming services, and holding off on major purchases, among other behavioural changes. Heading into the holiday season, many also said they would be reducing travel, or thinking about where they could cut Christmas costs. Cost of living dominated the top issues list throughout the year, and pressure on provincial governments continues to grow as Canadians search for answers.

As the Bank of Canada continues to raise interest rates, home affordability remains a significant source of frustration for would-be owners, recent buyers, and renters alike. This will be a key focus of the Angus Reid Institute’s 2023 research program.

Story Two – COVID comes and goes – The Omicron Wave, ARI Estimates infection

A unique Angus Reid Institute study estimated the incidence of COVID-19 infection in early January, finding one-in-five Canadians reporting a positive case in their household since December 1 of the preceding year. This, while the appetite for public health restrictions was continuing to dissipate. Much of the rest of the year was defined by waning concern over COVID-19, and a passive approach to the associated personal health risks. By the end of the year, half of Canadians said they didn’t “think about COVID-19 much anymore” and few were wearing masks in public places. That said, a majority heading into the winter report that they would wear a mask if the government mandated it, suggesting a desire for more action from governments to counteract complacency.

Story Three – Health care confidence crumbles

COVID-19 exposed and exacerbated serious problems with Canada’s health care system, coast to coast. If it wasn’t evident after the first two years of the pandemic, these challenges became increasingly obvious as 2022 wore on.  Half of Canadians say they either struggle to access care from their family doctor (33%) or can’t find one at all (17%). Meantime, confidence in emergency access, and health care provision overall has dropped, as the crisis intensifies.

First Ministers have been frustrated with the lack of a funding agreement with the federal government, while Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has repeatedly said that reform is necessary for the provinces to receive additional money. Half of Canadians (49%) say they blame both the provincial and federal levels of government for these problems, while 37 per cent say their province is primarily responsible. Few (12%) blame the federal government solely.

Read more from the Angus Reid Institute’s 2022 Three-Part health care study here:

https://angusreid.org/canada-health-care-issues/

https://angusreid.org/canada-health-care-privatization/

https://angusreid.org/canada-health-care-family-doctors-shortage/

Story Four – Freedom Convoy and Emergencies Act

February saw Canadians and their government drawing international attention as a convoy of truckers set out for Ottawa to protest public health restrictions. After protesters refused to leave, and other groups occupied Canada-U.S. border crossings in multiple locations, the federal government invoked the Emergencies Act, a never before used statute “to authorize the taking of special temporary measures to ensure safety and security during national emergencies”. This allowed police extra powers to remove protesters, and gave the government the power to freeze more than 200 bank accounts involved in funding the occupation.

Canadians were largely unsupportive of the protests. In February, 72 per cent said that the protesters had made their point and should go home. This, after approximately two weeks of action. That said, support for the use of the Emergencies Act was tepid, with 46 per cent saying that it was necessary to utilize in order to end the occupation, with 34 per cent feeling the police had the requisite power to remove protesters themselves, and 15 per cent saying that no action was necessary.

Story Five – Poilievre defeats Charest to take CPC leadership

Arguably the largest political story of the year was the search for a new leader of the official opposition. After two consecutive federal elections wherein they won the popular vote but failed to form government, the CPC chose Carleton MP Pierre Poilievre to lead the party into the next national contest. Poilievre has ignited enthusiasm among past CPC voters, but remains a divisive figure among the broader public. Canadians have questioned comments about investing in Bitcoin, firing the head of the Bank of Canada, and  Poilievre’s support of the so-called “freedom convoy.” Poilievre’s main rival, former Quebec Liberal Premier Jean Charest, showed more room for broad growth among the public, but failed to resonate with the CPC base. Poilievre ultimately won a non-competitive race and has pulled many former People’s Party supporters back into the Conservative fold.

Poilievre’s personal appeal is much worse than his CPC leadership predecessors, and he faces considerable challenges in resonating with women and residents in Quebec if he hopes to change his party’s recent electoral fortunes.


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