The Confederation of Tomorrow surveys are annual studies conducted by an association of the country’s leading public policy organizations: the Environics Institute for Survey Research, the Canada West Foundation, the Centre D’Analyse Politique – Constitution et Fédéralisme, the Institute for Research on Public Policy and the Brian Mulroney Institute of Government and the Johnson Shoyama Graduate School of Public Policy. The surveys give voice to Canadians about the major issues shaping the future of the federation and their political communities. The 2021 study consists of a survey of 5,814 adults, conducted online in the provinces between January 25 and February 17; and online and by telephone in the territories between January 25 and March 1.

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Executive Summary

A year into the COVID-19 pandemic, efforts to limit the spread of the virus continue to depend in large part on the willingness of citizens to modify their behaviours to conform with public health guidelines, notably those relating to physical distancing and wearing masks. More recently, the focus has turned to ensuring that citizens will agree to get vaccinated once a vaccine becomes available to them. The Confederation of Tomorrow 2021 survey of Canadians finds that there is widespread agreement across the country on key aspects of the response to the COVID-19 pandemic, including the requirement to wear masks in public, the importance of getting vaccinated, and the need for a prudent approach to reopening the economy. One reason for this agreement is that, in the midst of a public health crisis, the public continues to place a high degree of confidence in scientists and medical experts.

Wearing masks in public

Canadians are not only complying with the requirement to wear masks in public, they also are generally accepting of the fact that they need to do so. Nine in ten Canadians say that, in the past month, they have worn a mask or face covering all or most of the time when in stores or other businesses. And relatively few Canadians say they are bothered by the need to do so. More than three in four say they are not bothered when stores and businesses require customers to wear a mask for service; while four in five are bothered when people around them in public do not wear masks. These behaviours and attitudes vary somewhat by age: younger Canadians are less likely than their older counterparts to wear masks in public all or most of the time, and more likely to be bothered by mask-wearing requirements.

Canadians are somewhat less likely than Americans to be bothered by the requirement to wear masks in stores and businesses, and somewhat more likely to be bothered when people around them in public do not wear a mask. The main difference between the two countries, however, is that there is stronger cross-party agreement on this issue in Canada.

Intention to be vaccinated

Three in four Canadians say that they would definitely or probably get vaccinated to prevent COVID-19, if a vaccine were available to them. Fewer than one in five would probably or definitely not choose to get vaccinated (including fewer than one in ten who are definite that they would not). Younger Canadians, racialized Canadians, Indigenous Peoples and Canadians who did not continue their education past high school are less likely to say they will definitely get the vaccine. Even among these groups, however, relatively few say they definitely would not.

There are modest differences among supporters of the main federal political parties: supporters of the Bloc Que?be?cois, the Liberal Party and the NDP are more likely than average to say they will definitely get the vaccine, whereas supporters of the Green Party and the Conservative Party are slightly less likely than average to be this certain. But fewer than one in four supporters of any of these parties say they probably or definitely would not get the vaccine.

Canadians are much more certain about their intention to get vaccinated than are Americans. And the gap in intention to be vaccinated between Democrats and Republicans in the U.S. is currently twice as large as that between Liberals and Conservatives in Canada.

Reopening the economy

Most Canadians support a cautious approach to reopening the economy. Nearly three in four prefer that governments keep people as safe as possible from the spread of COVID-19, even if that means reopening the economy more slowly, compared to one in five who prefer a faster reopening of the economy, even if that means that more people might end up getting sick. Two in three residents of each province favour the more cautious approach. There is also strong support in the country’s largest cities for the option of reopening the economy more slowly to keep people as safe as possible.

While majorities in every age group favour the more cautious approach to reopening the economy, the views
of younger Canadians are somewhat less one-sided. Support for a faster reopening is especially strong among younger men: men between the ages of 18 and 24 are in fact evenly split between the two options of a faster and slower reopening. Conservative Party supporters are more supportive of a faster reopening of the economy than supporters of any other the other main parties; at the same time, fewer than one in three of the supporters of any of the main parties favour this option, while more that three in five favour the more prudent option of a slower reopening.

Restrictions on movement between communities

Most Canadians are supportive of restrictions on mobility
to limit the spread of COVID-19, but this support is much stronger in the case of international travel than of local travel between communities. Almost nine in ten support allowing the government to stop people from moving across the international border between Canada and the United States; more than three in four support allowing the government to stop people from moving between provinces and territories within Canada; and three in five support allowing the government to stop people from moving between different cities or towns within each province or territory.

Strong support for restrictions on movement between provinces and territories is highest in Quebec and Atlantic Canada, and lowest in the territories and in Alberta. Among supporters of the main federal political parties, Conservative supporters stand out as the least supportive of each of these restrictions on mobility.

Confidence in scientists and medical experts

Large majorities of Canadians have confidence in scientists, and trust the medical and health advice given by the Government of Canada. Confidence in scientists is much higher than confidence in governments; confidence in scientists also varies much less across the country than does confidence in governments.

There is no significant variation among regions in the level of trust in the medical and health advice given by the Government of Canada. Trust in this advice is also expressed by at least seven in ten Canadians, regardless of which of the main federal political parties they support.

What is most striking, however, is that two in three of those who lack confidence in governments in general nonetheless say that they trust the medical and health advice that the Government of Canada gives. Reassuringly, this suggests that confidence in medical experts generally outweighs doubts about governments.


This report was produced by Environics Institute