Canadians’ Timeline for Tackling Deficit Matches Federal Government’s


According to Senior Vice-President Doug Anderson “Canadians appear to agree that the global economic turmoil is a clear and valid reason for reducing the urgency of tackling the deficit and their preferred timeline tends to match the one targeted by the federal government.”



It came as no surprise to Canadians that Finance Minister Jim Flaherty announced that the government would need to lengthen its timeline for balancing the budget and the majority see this change as being due to the changes in international circumstances. Regardless of the cause for changing the timeline for balancing the budget, most Canadians are of the view that the goal for eliminating the deficit should not be any sooner than four years from now.

In terms of their preferred course for the next year, Canadians remain divided over whether to cut spending in order to balance the budget or continue spending in order to create jobs. A month ago, opinion appeared to be moving more towards a call for spending to create jobs, but the current results show a slight tendency to prefer spending cuts – which is what we had been finding for over several previous waves of study.

  • Few Canadians are surprised that the government lengthened the target for eliminating the deficit. Nationally, just 7% are surprised by this news, while 92% are unsurprised. No less than 87% across any region or demographic group say they are unsurprised the date to balance the budget has been pushed back.
  • Almost two in three see this delay is a result of the instability of the international economy, rather than domestic policies. Overall, 63% say the instability of the international economy is more to blame than domestic policies for the government not balancing the budget within the short-term.
  • Results on this question tend to correlate with partisan affiliations. Nevertheless, a majority of Liberal, New Democrat and Green Party supporters do identify the instability of the international economy as the reason for changing the timeline for eliminating the deficit.
  • A majority feel the deficit should not be eliminated before 2015. Overall, just 5% feel the deficit should be eliminated in the next federal budget. An additional 21% feel the budget deficit should be eliminated in two to three years. However, the majority (62%) do not feel it appropriate to eliminate the deficit in less than four years.
  • Men, those in Alberta, and those with household incomes below $60k/year are most likely to feel the deficit should be eliminated within two to three years.
    Regardless of political partisanship, majorities agree that the timeline should be no sooner than four years.
  • Even among those who are more inclined to blame the policies of the Canadian government for the delay in eliminating the deficit, the majority prefers a timeframe of four or more years to eliminate the deficit.
  • Canadians are fairly divided on whether it is time to control spending to eliminate the deficit or continue spending to create more jobs. Nationally, a majority (53%) feels the government should control spending in an attempt to reduce the deficit while 43% feel the government should continue stimulus funding in an effort to create more jobs.
  • Regionally, a majority of those in Ontario (51%) feel government should focus on continued stimulus in an effort to create more jobs, while those in BC, Alberta, Atlantic Canada and Quebec are more likely to say the government should control spending in an attempt to reduce the deficit.
  • Across vote intention lines, Liberals, New Democrats and Greens are more likely than Conservatives to feel more of a priority should be put on continued stimulus, but among supporters of any of those three parties, the tendency is for opinion to be divided on this question.
  • Opinion may be shifting back to a slight preference for spending control over stimulus spending for job creation. Just last month, we found an increase in those preferring stimulus spending, but the opinion environment – while still divided – appears to be shifting back to a slightly higher proportion preferring a focus on controlling spending over the next year.
  • A divide over whether to control spending or spend to stimulate job creation over the next year is found even among those who prefer shorter or longer timeframes for tackling the deficit. Among those who feel the budget should be balanced within three years, although 60% do want to see spending controlled over the next year, more than a third do still prefer to see continued spending to create jobs.

Each week, Harris/Decima interviews just over 1000 Canadians through teleVox, the company’s national telephone omnibus survey. The most recent data were gathered between November 10 and November 13, 2011. A sample of the same size has a margin of error of 3.1%, 19 times out of 20.