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Vax Pass and Post-Pandemic Canada


[Ottawa – August 17, 2021] As we enter our 44th federal election, there is an unprecedented array of challenges facing the country. A once-in-a-lifetime health and economic crisis casts a pall over the country. As the summer began, the public were of the view that the worst was over (as late as June, 84 per cent of Canadians believed the worst had passed). However, the summer is drawing to a close, the impacts of the new and more transmissible Delta variant has raised the yardstick for herd immunity, and most now believe we are entering a fourth wave. There is still broad confidence in Canada’s performance in exceeding the stated goals for vaccine rollout, but there is also recognition that we may need even stronger national action to conclude the vaccine rollout and put the worst part of the pandemic behind us.

These evolving forces have produced a new ballot booth issue in the form of ‘do you want vaccine passports to reward those who have accepted vaccines and to encourage those that have not to do so’. The federal government has noted the rejection of vaccine passports in the key provinces of Ontario and Alberta and is proposing to fill this void by offering a Canada-wide certificate that could be used by businesses but which would be a prerequisite for international travel and now domestic travel by air or train. They have also signaled their commitment by requiring vaccine certification for employees of the federal government and federally regulated industries.

As the data in this report clearly show, there is very strong support for these measures, which clearly address the central, immediate challenge of ending the fourth wave and the pandemic itself. It is clear that Conservative voters and former Conservative voters who have switched allegiances to the People’s Party are either divided or outright opposed to these measures. More problematically for Erin O’Toole, about half of his party’s current constituency support the idea of vaccine certification. He has little hope of winning if he alienates those opposed, but he risks losing some of the more traditional progressive conservative wing if he continues to oppose these measures. Mr. O’Toole is caught on the horns of a very uncomfortable dilemma.

We also find that while most Canadians have vaccinated, the numbers who have is significantly lower in the CPC and the residual non vaccinated are not willing to vaccinate. The People’s Party, whom he really needs to return to the fold, have seen their ranks rise, largely on vaccine-related issues. There is no path to victory for the Conservatives without some of this group returning to the Conservative fold (as they did in the final stages of the 2019 campaign).

If the vaccine passport becomes a ballot question, we think there is one other equally important ballot question which is who is best positioned to lead Canada into a post pandemic recovery. Here, there is more latitude for the Conservative Party and other parties as there are a range of options on the table. Issues like affordability, dealing with the burgeoning debt and deficit, what to do about climate change, immigration, social justice issue around race and indigenous reconciliation are all very important and evoke very different responses across the political spectrum. It would seem that the winner of the election will have to have compelling answers to both of these ballot booth issues to secure success on September 20.

More and more, the contest for what post-pandemic Canada look like revolves around whether Canada will want an open future (centred on rising support for immigration, and dealing with climate change and social class inequality) or an ordered future (bolstered by rising pessimism about globalization, hostility to outgroups and China in particular, and the rejection of science and government). We’ll be elaborating on this issue more as the campaign unfolds.

Federal vote intention

In our first press release following the dropping of the writ, we offer up our first three-day rolling poll result which will be updated regularly with our colleagues at The Herle Burly. Although too early to make clear conclusions, the Liberals find themselves with a significant – but by no means stable – five-point lead. The wobbling in Liberal fortunes appears to be connected to the decline in the belief that the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic is behind us. The Liberals enjoy a very strong lead in Ontario and Quebec. They do very well with the university educated and urban voters, and they do comparatively better with women and over-50 voters.

The Conservatives are stuck at 30 points, which is short of their 34-point plurality that failed to produce a government in 2019. They lead handily in Alberta and Saskatchewan and have very real prospects in British Columbia. They fare much better with men and the non-university educated, while they do quite poorly with millennials. They hold a huge advantage with rural voters but have lost their hold on the working class.

At 17 points, the NDP has shown some signs of life and are doing very well with women and millennials. The party does very well in British Columbia and they are showing considerable strength in the Atlantic. However, they are trailing badly in seat-rich Ontario and Quebec. The critical challenge will be turnout, as much of their support is centred in the under-35 cohort.

The Bloc Québécois is in a two-way race with the Liberals in Quebec. The Green Party is still around seven points and fares well in British Columbia and the Atlantic, but we suspect they will be challenged by internal unrest and a weak ground game associated with that conflict. The People’s Party is up from their dismal showing in the last election and they are above the magic four-point threshold set for participating in the leader’s debates. They are very much the party of the anti-vaccine, anti-mask, and anti-vaccine passport crowd. They do best with men under 50 and it is unclear whether their supporters will go back to the Conservative Party on Election Day (which is perhaps why Mr. O’Toole is passing on vaccine passports).

So, the table is set for a very intense and brief national debate about the future. The party that best answers the two pressing questions of: 1) ‘can you end the fourth wave and restore normalcy?’; and 2) ‘why should trust you to lead us into the post-pandemic Canada?’ will be rewarded with government.


The report draws on data from two separate surveys. Both surveys were conducted using High Definition Interactive Voice Response (HD-IVR™) technology, which allows respondents to enter their preferences by punching the keypad on their phone, rather than telling them to an operator. In an effort to reduce the coverage bias of landline only RDD, we created a dual landline/cell phone RDD sampling frame for this research. As a result, we are able to reach those with a landline and cell phone, as well as cell phone only households and landline only households.

The field dates for the first survey are August 4-10, 2021. In total, a random sample of 1,482 Canadians aged 18 and over responded to the survey. The margin of error associated with the total sample is +/- 2.6 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

The field dates for the second survey are August 13-15, 2021. In total, a random sample of 856 Canadians aged 18 and over responded to the survey. The margin of error associated with the total sample is +/- 3.4 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

Please note that the margin of error increases when the results are sub-divided (i.e., error margins for sub-groups such as region, sex, age, education). All the data have been statistically weighted by age, gender, and region to ensure the sample’s composition reflects that of the actual population of Canada according to Census data.

EKOS follows the CRIC Public Opinion Research Standards and Disclosure Requirements.

Please click here for a copy of the data tables from the first survey (August 4-10, 2021).

Please click here for a copy of the data tables from the second survey (August August 13-15, 2021).

2 comments to Vax Pass and Post-Pandemic Canada

  • Darlene Duncan

    As a 61 y old woman, I wouldn’t expect the PM to end the 4th wave. It is up to premiers to sort out their provinces.
    The Liberals have done the country proud with procurement of vaccines and keeping the public informed. I would trust them to bring Canada back online post pandemic.
    I will be voting Liberal 2021 Federally, and Provincially 2022.

  • Michael Richards

    It would be nice to see ‘the worst is yet to come’ By vote intention per party.

    I will be voting PPC, because regardless of how you feel about the efficacy of the Vaccine, creating a digital passport that can be easily used to block you from going about your daily business based on what medical treatments you have or have not received is morally and ethically wrong, and the PPC is the only party which is actually standing up for the rights of Canadians to make their own informed decisions. The party wants to get out of the way of our lives and let us make our own decisions.

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