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Mario Canseco: Small majorities happy with B.C. government's pandemic performance

B.C. residents ready to ditch restrictions, says survey
Bonnie Henry - Dec. 21, 2021
Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry speaks during a press conference on Tuesday, December 21, 2021, as Health Minister Adrian Dix appears in the background.

Four years ago, our surveys showed a province gripped by uncertainty and fear as B.C. began to navigate the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

As lockdowns persisted, B.C., along with Quebec, showed the highest levels of satisfaction with the way the crisis was being managed. By December 2022, more than two-thirds of British Columbians (68 per cent) remained content the provincial government’s pandemic management.

When asked to look back, more than seven in 10 British Columbians are satisfied with the way their family (78 per cent) and their friends (74 per cent) tackled the pandemic. Small majorities are pleased with the performance of municipal (58 per cent), provincial (52 per cent) and federal (51 per cent) governments. Fewer were happy with the performance of official oppositions in Victoria (36 per cent) and Ottawa (35 per cent).

The level of satisfaction with COVID-19 management is lukewarm for trade associations and unions (each at 39 per cent) but rises for non-governmental organizations (49 per cent). The media does well: At least half of British Columbians are satisfied with how newspapers (50 per cent), radio news (52 per cent) and television news (55 per cent) approached the pandemic. 

When asked to side with one of three statements, 60 per cent say they believe we are in a different moment and there is no need for additional public health measures related to COVID-19. Just over one in four (26 per cent) think we should continue to have strict public health measures in place to stop the spread of the virus. Only seven per cent of British Columbians say COVID-19 was a hoax and we never should have altered our lives. 

BC Liberal voters in the 2020 election are more likely to say they believe we should still have strict guidelines (36 per cent) than those who voted for the BC NDP (28 per cent) or the BC Green Party (24 per cent). 

At this stage, just over half of British Columbians (52 per cent) believe COVID-19 is still a threat, while 43 per cent do not and six per cent are uncertain. The notion of COVID-19 remaining a menace to life as we know it is more prevalent among residents of South Asian descent (59 per cent), followed by those whose origins are East Asian (54 per cent), European (52 per cent) and Indigenous (46 per cent).

Most British Columbians assume that some of our pandemic experiences will not return in the next four years. Majorities say they do not expect to see a ban on travel to other Canadian provinces (68 per cent), proof-of-vaccination certificates to access specific venues and locations (55 per cent) or capacity restrictions for worship services, concerts and sporting events (54 per cent). There is a split on whether mask mandates will be brought back soon: 41 per cent of British Columbians think this is possible, and 48 per cent disagree.

If a new public health emergency were to occur this month, the five most-trusted sources of information would be a family doctor (58 per cent), B.C. provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry (50 per cent), the BC Centre for Disease Control (also 50 per cent), medical staff at health clinics (36 per cent) and the provincial government (33 per cent). 

It is clear that British Columbians look back at the pandemic with relief. In an election year, confidence in the provincial health officer’s ability to address a new crisis remains high. Candidates who cater to the animosity and vitriol expressed by some do not stand to gain much.

Mario Canseco is president of Research Co.

Results are based on an online study conducted March 4-6, among 800 adults in B.C. The data has been statistically weighted according to Canadian census figures for age, gender and region in B.C. The margin of error is plus or minus 3.5 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.