TORONTO -- While it’s easy to grimace at the idea of re-living the early days of the pandemic, a new report suggests that most Canadians support the idea of reinstating restrictions to fight the second wave of COVID-19.

The new research conducted by Vox Pop Labs involved a survey of 1,982 Canadians, where a majority said they would agree to renewing restrictions on various public services and spaces.

When asked which services the government should lock down again if the COVID-19 situation gets significantly worse, bars and nightclubs topped the list with 78 per cent of Canadians strongly supporting renewed restrictions. Canadians also said they would strongly support tougher measures on stadiums (75 per cent), nursing homes (74 per cent), social gatherings (69 per cent), and movie theatres (68 per cent).

Clifton van der Linden, the founder and CEO of Vox Pop Labs and an assistant professor of political science at McMaster University, told the outcome of the survey was surprising given reports about how resistant Canadians might be to such measures.

Health officials have reported a significant spike in cases where Canada would see an increase of 300 cases per day in mid-August to the previous week where cases have jumped to more than 1,000.

“I think these restrictions have worn on Canadians and we can see that in the data about their levels of anxiety and concern. I think people are generally tired of those restrictions and were quite happy to see them relaxed over the past several weeks,” he said in a phone interview on Friday.

The study found that a majority of Canadians deemed a number of services as expendable in order to combat a potential second wave. But Canadians are more conflicted when it comes to schools, with 57 per cent strongly in support of reintroduced restrictions. Other services that received strong support from about half the Canadian population included child care centres (50 per cent), colleges and universities (55 per cent), and hair salons and barbershops (53 per cent).

Van der Linden said most parents want their children to attend daycare or school for the benefits it can provide for both child and parent, unless the virus spreads substantially. Another study conducted by the makers of Vox Pop Labs found that parents, specifically mothers more than doubled their amount of hours in taking care of their children.

“On one side there’s a real reticence to continue to further disadvantage parents—mothers in particular. There’s a recognition of the mental health benefits of sending children back to school but this is counter balanced by the core parental concern about the exposure [to the coronavirus] that children might face in schools if things get worse,” he said.

Other notable findings in the survey suggests those in Alberta and Quebec were less likely to support renewed restrictions. Van der Linden suggests that this could be attributable to a combination of factors such as culture or the public’s trust in the government.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and several provincial premiers have already indicated that renewed restrictions may be necessary to deal with the onset of a potential second wave of COVID-19 in Canada. Van der Linden said Canadians are prepared to accept tougher measures to contain the virus if they have to.

“There will be a lot of ways in which it’s harder in winter months but from what Canadians are saying right now in terms of our research, they seem unenthusiastic but nevertheless committed to doing what needs to be done if the situation should call for it,” said van der Linden.

Methodology from Vox Pop Labs:

  • The findings in this report are based on a single wave of the survey fielded between 18 and 22 September 2020
  • The total number of respondents to this wave was 1,982
  • Using marginal distributions from the 2016 census, results were weighted according to gender, age, education, region and partisanship in order to ensure a representative sample of the Canadian population
  • No margin of error can be associated with an online panel study. However, for comparative purposes, a probability sample of 1,982 respondents would have a margin of error of ±2.201%, 19 times out of 20.


This story has been updated to correct a misquote. Van der Linden said there is a real reticence, not resonance, to continue to further disadvantage parents tasked with caring for children during COVID-19. The story has also been updated to clarify the results of the research.