Canadians have done an about-face and ranked strengthening the economy as the top priority for government compared to last year when crime and punishment was number one.

A new Nanos Survey shows 39.7 per cent of respondents said building a stronger economic union was their key issue and dropped cracking down on guns, gangs as drugs to second at 23.4 per cent.

Last year, as the government started pushing its crime agenda through Parliament, a majority of Canadians (33.4 per cent) ranked that as their main concern. The economy placed second at 25.9 per cent.

Coming in third, fourth and fifth this year were food and production safety regulations, asserting Arctic sovereignty and rebuilding the armed forces.

They stood at 21.8 per cent, 4.1 per cent and 3.7 per cent respectively.

There was stronger support for Arctic sovereignty and the armed forces last year.

The five possible responses for the survey were taken from a list of policy priorities on the official website of Prime Minister Stephen Harper. Respondents were asked to rank them in terms of importance.

Nanos conducted the online survey of 1,000 Canadians between May 10 and 12. Responses for 2011 came from a random telephone survey of 1,211 people.

Ontario led the provinces in ranking the economy as the top job for Ottawa at just over 46 per cent, followed closely by Quebec at 38 per cent.

The Prairies and British Columbia hovered between 35 per cent and 38.6 per cent respectively. Atlantic Canada respondents also put the economy in first at 35 per cent.