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Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland delivers the federal budget in the House of Commons as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau looks on in Ottawa on April 19, 2021.Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press

The size of the federal deficit is a concern to three in four Canadians, according to a new Nanos poll, but the Liberal Party scores higher than other parties when it comes to managing the government’s finances.

The survey for The Globe and Mail asked Canadians for their views on the April 19 budget, which included $101.4-billion in new spending over three years. The budget also estimated that last year’s deficit will be $354.2-billion, pushing the size of the federal debt above $1-trillion for the first time in Canadian history.

The results found 74 per cent of Canadians said they were either concerned (45 per cent) about the size of the current federal deficit or somewhat concerned (29 per cent). Male respondents were more likely to express concern about the deficit than female respondents. Regionally, prairie respondents were the most concerned, while Atlantic Canadians were the least concerned.

Parliamentary Budget Officer Yves Giroux and others have expressed concern that the level of spending in the budget may be higher than necessary to achieve the goal of reversing the economic damage of the COVID-19 pandemic. The survey suggests Canadians share that concern.

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The survey found Canadians are nearly five times more likely to say the postpandemic spending described in the budget is too much rather than too little.

In spite of these views, respondents picked the Liberals ahead of others when asked which federal party they trust the most to responsibly manage the finances of the government of Canada. The Liberal Party was selected by 28.4 per cent of respondents. The Conservatives were the choice of 23.4 per cent, followed by 22.7 who said they trust none of the parties. The NDP was selected by 7.5 per cent of respondents.

One of the major announcements in the budget was a plan to spend $30-billion over five years for child care and then $8.3-billion annually. The plan is contingent on reaching transfer agreements with provinces, which are primarily responsible for the delivery of child care. The stated goal of the program is to establish a national system of $10-a-day subsidized child care.

The Nanos survey found Canadians are giving the idea positive marks, with 36 per cent saying they support spending on a national subsidized childcare program and 28 per cent saying they somewhat support the plan. Sixteen per cent said they oppose the idea and 14 per cent said they were somewhat opposed. Six per cent said they were unsure.

Another question asked Canadians to score their impression of the budget on a scale between 0 and 10, with 10 being very positive. The average score was 4.9 per cent. Women gave the budget a higher score of 5.4 per cent, while the average score given by men was 4.4 per cent.

“As a political document the budget was a mixed bag among Canadians,” said pollster Nik Nanos. “The survey data suggests that there exists a significant level of concern over the size of the current federal deficit, but at the same time a majority of Canadians, to one extent or another, support spending $30-billion on a national subsidized childcare program. This budget is unlikely, at this point, to buoy up the political fortunes of the federal Liberal government.”

The hybrid telephone and online random survey of 1,025 Canadian adults was conducted between April 29 and May 3 as part of omnibus survey. The survey’s margin of error is plus or minus 3.1 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

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