The latest Canadian Press-Harris/Decima survey asked about the upcoming federal budget
According to Senior Vice-President Doug Anderson; “In advance of the federal budget, the public atmosphere appears to be fairly benign. Canadians have maintained a neutral to positive assessment of the handling of the country’s finances. They are looking for the deficit to be tackled, but tackled over a number of years. One challenge for the government at this point is that while Canadians claim to want spending reduced overall, they simultaneously will identify a number of policy areas where they would prefer spending be increased. “
Most Canadians feel the federal government is doing at least a fair job of handling its finances. The plurality offer a modest rating of “fair” while more than one quarter describe the federal government’s performance in this area as good or very good. Roughly three in ten feel the performance has been poor or very poor. This is a measure that is highly influenced by partisanship, so it is not surprising to see that Conservative supporters are most inclined to offer favourable ratings. However, what may be a bit more surprising is the fact that a majority of supporters of the Liberal Party, Green Party and even the NDP also see the federal government’s management of finances as being at least fair.
The vast majority recognizes that the Canadian government is currently in a deficit situation and feels it is important that the deficit be eliminated at some point, but few feel it should be balanced immediately. Overall Canadians are more inclined to prefer a medium- to long-term schedule for balancing the federal budget, although about one in three feels that it should be accomplished within five years.
Canadians claim to want restraint overall, but still prefer spending be increased in multiple areas. By a wide margin, Canadians are far more likely to say they prefer federal spending be decreased overall, but when asked about each of ten specific policy areas there is a reluctance to call for cuts in any area – even more challenging: a fairly high proportion calling for spending increases. This finding highlights the complexity of building consensus around reducing public spending. Even with a public environment that is not overly critical and would prefer the total amount of spending be cut, it remains far more challenging to gain broad acceptance of a spending cut than a spending increase.
On the revenue side, there is little appetite for personal tax increases while corporate tax increases are much more palatable. Surveys among the general public have a tendency to prove that Canadians would prefer that tax revenues come from sources other than themselves. At this point in time, the natural tendency holds true, but it may be more interesting to note that Canadians are fairly split over whether corporate taxes should increase at this time. Likewise, while it would likely be a benefit for all, only one third of Canadians see this as a time to decrease personal taxes. Taken together, the pressure to generate increased tax revenue from corporate sources may be higher, but it there is not a widespread sense that it is time to reduce one’s personal tax responsibility.
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 March 22 and March 25, 2012. A sample of the same size has a margin of error of 3.1%, 19 times out of 20.