In a recent poll, only 18 per cent said reopening measures should apply to all of Canada at once, in a May 20, 2020 story. (Photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Regions should reopen on their own timelines, poll suggests

OTTAWA — As provinces take their cautious first steps to allow people back into local businesses, a new poll suggests most Canadians don’t think province-wide measures are the best way to reopen the economy.

The latest poll on the COVID-19 pandemic by Leger and the Association for Canadian Studies suggests only 35 per cent of people thought restrictions should be loosened for entire provinces.

In contrast, 47 per cent thought those decisions should apply to specific regions within each province. Just 18 per cent said reopening measures should apply to all of Canada at once.

Still, just over half of those polled said they trust provinces to make the call about what businesses should reopen and when, whereas about one-third said that should be up to Ottawa and 14 per cent said local governments should decide.

That is essentially what happened in Quebec, where the provincial government delayed the planned reopening of schools, daycares and businesses in the Greater Montreal area for one week because of the particularly high COVID-19 infection rate in the area and a shortage of health-care workers.

The proportion of people who said they would like decisions to be made region by region were highest in that province at 73 per cent, followed by Alberta at 52 per cent.

“It’s as if Canadians are saying we need to be nimble in terms of how we make decisions,” said Leger vice-president Christian Bourque.

He said people recognize the situation in Edmonton is not the same as in Calgary, and the situation in Toronto is different than what’s happening in Northern Ontario.

Albertans and Ontarians were slightly less likely to put their trust in the provincial government to make decisions about how local economies should reopen, at 46 per cent compared with the 55 per cent for Canadians overall.

Those in Alberta were more likely than the rest of the country to want their local governments making those calls, at 24 per cent compared to 14 per cent of Canadians overall. Ontarians were more likely to favour the feds, at 39 per cent compared to the national total of 31 per cent.

The pollsters surveyed 1,513 Canadians recruited from an online panel between May 15 and May 17.

Since polls created from Internet panels are not random samples, however, no margin of error can be associated with the results.

As for how comfortable Canadians are with the current speed at which provinces and territories are lifting public health restrictions, 60 per cent said they should keep doing what they’re doing, while 27 per cent would like to see them pull on the reins and 13 per cent want them to move faster.

While people begin to venture into public spaces more often over the coming weeks, masks may be a more common sight, as 67 per cent of respondents said they’ve taken to covering their face a means of protecting against the virus.

About half of respondents across the country said they wear a mask at the grocery store and on public transit, and 42 per cent wear one to the pharmacy.

Only about ten per cent said they would don a mask to take a walk.

But Bourque said they still might not be getting the message about why masks are actually beneficial.

Of those surveyed, including those who don’t wear masks, 43 per cent said they wear a mask to protect themselves and others against the virus, while in truth non-medical masks provide little protection to the wearer.

Rather, they’re intended to prevent the wearer from passing the virus to others.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 20, 2020.

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