A New World Disorder: Opportunity in a Polycrisis

This week we released our annual study, Ipsos Global Trends 2023. How does it all play out in Canada? Take a look.

The author(s)
  • Mike Colledge President, Ipsos Public Affairs Canada
Get in touch

Over the last few years Canadians and the rest of the world have slowly started to emerge from a global pandemic only to find ourselves in a new world and facing many crises on many fronts. Around the world we are facing a polycrisis. We have high inflation, worries about the cost of living and a potential global financial crisis. We have a climate crisis with a recent rise in weather related events finally connecting the dots and creating demand for action after nearly two decades of alarm sounding debate and UN meetings. Climate change is forcing an energy transition at the exact same time as energy affordability and energy security have also hit crisis status in some parts of the world due to the war with Russia and Ukraine. And of course, the war itself has created a crisis of security, more acutely felt in Europe but with clear geo-political ramifications everywhere. 

In Canada, these global crises are playing out along-side our own domestic challenges including worries about a health care system that seems on the brink, a polarized political climate and due to our economic reliance on the energy sector, an amped up energy debate as we are told we must take steps to de-carbonize our economy.

These crises are also occurring at a time when our public and private institutions should be very focused on planning for the longer, macro trends facing Canada. These include an ageing population, increased diversity, indigenous reconciliation, declining productivity, and growing concern over our mental health. These are just a few of the over-arching macro trends shaping Canada’s future.

With these crises, and the disruptive environment in mind, Ipsos 2023 Global Trends study examined the key social and economic trends across 50 countries. What follows are 10 findings from the study that should give our leaders pause for consideration as they work to serve Canadians and attempt to reduce the number of Canadians who say Canada is on the wrong track.

 1. Six in ten Canadians (61%) say they are happy, but the same proportion (62%) think the country is on the wrong track.

Reconciling cautious personal optimism with the perception that the country is headed in the wrong direction points towards a disruptive path forward. Over the past year many (but not all) Canadians have figured out how to weather high inflation, the pandemic, and the slowing economy. In doing so, they seem to have also lowered their long-term expectations for the country. Most Canadians are dissatisfied with the performance of governments and the private sector alike when it comes to the future of our health system, our approach to climate change and growing the Canadian economy.

2. Seven in ten Canadians (70%) are worried that the government and public services will do little to help people in the years ahead.

It wasn’t that long ago that governments were boasting of their rapid response to the coronavirus and their success in keeping the economy afloat and individuals financially whole. But with a poly-crisis consisting of high inflation, declining health services, climate change and the stubborn persistence of the virus, Canadians are skeptical about governments’ ability to deliver. Expect a loud debate about the future of service delivery and new models to emerge as governments look to thread the needle between what Canadians are demanding of them and what they can actually afford to do.

3. Almost seven in ten Canadians (68%) think the world is changing too fast.

Canadians are among the least likely in the world to feel this way. Sweden and Great Britain are the only countries less likely to feel the world is changing too fast. Canadians have welcomed the benefits of technological change and innovation over the past few years but remain consternated at the dizzying instability of world politics and the seemingly inevitable global economic forces.

4. Eight in ten Canadians (81%) believe it is inevitable that we will lose some privacy in the future.

Most Canadians expect their privacy to suffer due to the increased digitization of everything. The promises (and sometimes reality) of convenience and affordability continue to win Canadians over, and they are willingly sharing their personal information with others they trust. This doesn’t mean they are prepared to absolve organizations, that through neglect, become the source of privacy breaches. They expect a quick response, transparency and to be adequately protected and compensated.

5. Almost three quarters of Canadians (73%) believe we are heading towards an environmental disaster unless we change our habits quickly.

When it comes to climate change most Canadians feel like a deer “in the” headlights. Environmental disaster is looming, but Canadians lack the tools to navigate an effective energy transition and lack the carbon reduction knowledge needed to help them make personal decisions on how best to address the problem. As a result, they are increasingly turning to governments and the private sector, demanding that they lead by example and pay for the solutions required to save the planet.

6. Seven in ten Canadians (70%) say there is more and more conflict in Canada between people who don’t share the same values.

Social cohesion in Canada is decidedly low but relatively stable. The early Covid battle cries of our leaders “we are all in this together” quickly gave way to the more deliberate propagation of wedge issues and wedge solutions. Anything that creates an “us vs. them” seems to be the preferred political strategy for all sides. With Baby Boomers being the only generation holding on to the ideals of working together for the collective good, it’s hard to envision the emergence of solutions to any of the crises that could garner acceptance by a majority of Canadians.

7. Four in ten Canadians (40%) believe there are too many immigrants.

While Canadians’ support for ethnic diversity and multiculturalism remains strong, we are starting to see some cracks in the foundation of support for immigration. Very few are critical of the plan to greatly increase the number of immigrants coming to Canada each year, but we are hearing increased concern about what governments are planning to do to accommodate newcomers. With inadequate and unaffordable housing and an underperforming health system, Canadians are likely to use immigration to pressure their governments for action on both of these fronts. If unemployment unexpectedly rises and becomes more widespread, we might see signs of growing opposition.

8. More than six in ten Canadians (63%) want their lives to be simpler and they increasingly want to spend time alone (62%).

Social media can connect us all, but its overwhelming nature and our “always on” culture may actually be pushing Canadians away from each other. It seems possible to be connected 24-7 yet feel we are always alone. Added to the impact of technology are some basic demographic changes where people are marrying later, partnering less, and having fewer children making our family networks smaller and less resilient.

9. Over eight in ten Canadians (81%) believe they need to do more to look after themselves physically, and seven in ten (71%) say the same for their mental wellbeing.

Pre-pandemic the stigma of mental health was declining, and more people were opening up about their mental health challenges. In one year, the pandemic pushed mental health awareness and concern to the fore and put it on par with physical health. With the challenges facing basic health services, it may be several decades before mental health programming and funding catch up to the demand.

10. Over seven in ten Canadians (72%) would like more control over the decisions that affect their own health.

Canadians want to be empowered to protect their own health. This extends to being able to make better choices about their food, their physical and mental health, and how their actions impact the climate. If governments can’t deliver, they want to take matters into their own hands. The organizations that can find the right mix of information, technological solutions, and convenience to empower Canadians will win a loyal following as they facilitate this empowerment.

Canadians are not sheltered from the macro forces shaping our world but our outlook and our reactions to these forces are sometimes uniquely Canadian. Canadian leaders, be they in the public, private or not-for-profit space need to understand and consider the views of Canadians and the context of their lives. If they don’t they risk further eroding the confidence of Canadians in the ability of our institutions to improve Canada. Confidence and trust in our institutions is low and if left un-addressed we will soon add a crisis of confidence to the list of polycrisis we are facing.

For more insights from this research, please join us on April 27.

The author(s)
  • Mike Colledge President, Ipsos Public Affairs Canada

Society