Canadians are Interested in more than One Kind of Green Recovery

The November 30th Federal Fiscal Update promised Canadians a down-payment on transformative green initiatives.

The author(s)

  • Mike Colledge President, Ipsos Public Affairs Canada
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The November 30th Federal Fiscal Update promised Canadians a down-payment on transformative green initiatives. The update included $2.6B over the next seven years in home energy-efficiency improvement grants and $150 million over the next three years for electric vehicle charging infrastructure.  While these actions might not be seen as the great green reset, or the Liberal Government’s full commitment to building back better, it is more than just talk, and it is a good indication of their future intent.

With Covid-19 still very much present in our day-to-day lives, and questions around when Canada might get a vaccine and how it will be distributed very much top of mind, one might view the green component of Minister Freeland’s update as an attempt to get Canadians to focus on something other than the pandemic. But the environmental components of the Fiscal Update and the September Throne Speech are also an accurate read of what Canadians are hoping to see more of, from both the public and private sector.

Anyone looking at the list of Canadians top concerns could easily assume that the environmental movement and climate change have lost ground to COVID and the struggling economy.  And they would be correct. Ever since the spring, environmental concerns have been taking a back seat to economic and health concerns – a trend that seems to be strengthening as the number of new COVID19 cases in Canada continues to rise.  But, at the same time, longer-term support and demand for action on the environmental front has grown since the pandemic started.

Eight in ten Canadians (+4 pts since February) see disaster looming if we do not take some sort of action on the environment soon. The same number feel that Canada should do more, and that we should be a global leader on the issue (+5 pts since February).  Support is also growing for key policy measures.  Six in ten now support a federal carbon tax and eight in ten Canadians support next year’s ban on single-use plastics.

But addressing environmental issues isn’t just a governmental issue as Canadians also have expectations for the private sector to play a role.  A growing majority believe companies don’t pay enough attention to the environment and that they feel better about those companies that do. That doesn’t mean consumers are taking businesses at their word though, as eight in ten tell us they are skeptical about how “green” some products and companies really are. Looking ahead, we can expect to see Canadians challenge the private sector on their environmental claims, and reward or punish them through their purchases based on the veracity of their green credentials.  

On the sustainability front, although Canadians admit to being a bit fuzzy on what this term actually entails, they do agree that it matters to them, and they view sustainable products as both higher quality and better for the environment.

Finally, Canadians are telling us that they are more willing to step up and take personal action.  For a long time, Canadians have said they were willing to take personal action to help address climate change, but few were willing to spend more of their hard-earned dollars to do so.  But now, even in the middle of a pandemic, there are signs that more Canadians are willing to put their money where their mouth is when it comes to supporting climate change. Three in four (+19 pts since February) tell us they are willing to spend more to help this cause, with the largest gain among those who say they would spend an additional $100-$200 per year on environmentally friendly products or services.

On the near horizon, Canadians are very focused on the impending long winter, and the challenges of working and living through the pandemic.  But our research shows that their long-term thinking and resolve to tackle systemic challenges and ensure a bright future for future generations is strengthening.  

Organizations that take a short-term view of the world may find themselves out of step with the direction of evolving citizen and consumer sentiment.  Canadians look increasingly willing to do their part for the environment, and they’re also more likely to hold both the public and private sectors accountable if they don’t follow their lead.

Note: All data referred to in this note was taken from the Ipsos Context Report: Climate Change in the Pandemic World, October 2020.

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The author(s)

  • Mike Colledge President, Ipsos Public Affairs Canada