The following article was published in Policy Options / Options Politiques on January 4, 2021.
Only a fool would set out to forecast events for 2021 considering the unexpected year we’ve had. But we can still reflect on how the events of the past 12 months have set the stage for what comes next. Whatever happens in the next year will unfold
within a specific context. Part of the context is the attitudes and expectations of Canadians.
One of the remarkable things about these attitudes and expectations is that, overall, they have not been upended by the arrival of COVID-19. Yes, some things changed. At the end of 2019, the environment had overtaken the economy as the public’s
top preoccupation – for the first time since 2007. In 2020, however, the environment and the economy were both, not surprisingly, eclipsed in immediate importance by the pandemic. But beyond such obvious shifts, Canadians’ outlook was
not shattered. The proportion of Canadians who feel hopeful about the future or who feel they can bounce back after hard times was no lower at the end of summer than it was at the start of the year, before the pandemic began spreading here. And if
large majorities of Canadians supported calls for government action to improve care for seniors, or expand child care, or ensure workers can take sick days, this was not because of their experiences with COVID-19: most Canadians have supported such
measures for years.
But change is happening nonetheless. Opinions in Canada on key issues are evolving, and in ways that go well beyond temporary blips caused by the COVID-19 crisis. These social changes will impact our politics one way or another in 2021 and beyond –
whether the vaccines roll out quickly or not. What follows, then, are not predictions, but trends discerned from a series of public opinion studies undertaken by the Environics Institute over the
past 12 months. These trends are already playing a role in shaping the country’s future.