Majority of Canadians favor deficit spending: poll

Thu Nov 27, 2008 9:44am EST
 
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TORONTO (Reuters) - A majority of Canadians are in favor of the government boosting spending to stimulate the economy, even if it means running a deficit, a poll showed on Thursday.

A McAllister Opinion Research poll found that 57 percent of Canadians agree that the federal government should follow this route, with 63 percent support coming from hard-hit Ontario residents, while Western Canada respondents were the lowest at 52 percent.

"These numbers follow on a trend of collapsing trust in private institutions," pollster Angus McAllister said in a release.

"We have seen a noticeable decline in public faith that corporate Canada can be relied upon to do the right thing. Many Canadians feel they have no choice but to look to government for leadership out of the mess. The public want government to support the economy, but they are certainly not comfortable with handing public monies over to the private sector to spend as they see fit."

The poll comes just hours ahead of the release of the Canadian government's fall economic and fiscal update that is expected to outline some stimulus plans to be included in the budget to be delivered early next year.

The country has not run a budget deficit since 1996-97, but even Prime Minister Stephen Harper now concedes a deficit might be inevitable as the country moves to shelter itself from the growing economic storm.

Despite the call for economic stimulus, most were not in favor of bailing out the troubled auto sector. The poll showed that 57 percent of the respondents in Western Canada and 52 percent in Ontario -- where the majority of the auto jobs are -- oppose government assistance to the carmakers. Both in Quebec and Atlantic Canada 52 percent were in favor of aid the automakers.

The telephone survey of 1,015 Canadians conducted between Nov 17 and Nov 23 has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 percent 19 times out of 20.

($1=$1.24 Canadian)

(Reporting by Scott Anderson; Editing by Frank McGurty)