A growing number of Canadians see health care, ahead of the economy, as the top issue facing the country, according to a new poll.

The Nanos Research poll, conducted for CTV and The Globe and Mail, comes on the eve of a federal budget that is expected to focus on job creation and Canada's economic recovery.

It found that nearly 30 per cent of respondents, when unprompted, said health care was the top priority (percentage-point change from last month in brackets):

  • Health care: 29.2 per cent (+6.3)
  • Jobs / Economy: 18.1 per cent (-2.1)
  • Education: 8.8 per cent (+3.5)
  • Environment: 7.5 per cent (-2.8)
  • Debt: 3.8 per cent (-1.4)
  • Unsure: 9.1 per cent (-3.3)

Last April, with Canada still staggering from a worldwide recession, more than half of all Canadians felt the economy was the top issue.

Health care, by contrast, fell below 15 per cent.

The Conservatives have presented themselves as the top stewards of Canada's economy, ahead of Tuesday's budget and a potential election trigger expected Friday, as MPs respond to a report that found the government in contempt.

Health care has seemingly fallen to the wayside as a major political issue, as opposition parties attack the government on spending and ethics.

"The opposition wants an election in order to raise taxes and kill jobs," Finance Minister Jim Flaherty said during question period Monday.

"While they're focused on opportunism and partisanship, we're focused on bringing forward the next phase of Canada's Economic Action Plan and creating jobs and growth."

Last week, Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff criticized Prime Minister Stephen Harper for promising more than $1 billion in new spending, while Harper had earlier slammed Ignatieff for saying a Liberal government would fund arenas.

Fighter jets not popular

The Nanos Poll suggests Canadians may be wary of major spending if it's not linked to economic recovery. The survey asked respondents whether now was a good time for Ottawa to spend as much as $30 billion on 65 new F-35 fighter jets.

The vast majority said now was not a good time because Canada is running a deficit:

  • Now is not a good time: 68 per cent
  • Purchase now for the future: 27 per cent
  • Unsure: 5 per cent

The purchase has become a heated issue on Parliament Hill. The Conservatives say it's a necessary investment for the future of Canada's military. Officials estimate the cost of each jet will be around $75 million.

However, recent U.S. reports put the cost much higher, estimating it could cost about $90 million per jet.

According to the survey, 30 per cent of Canadians see Conservatives as most trusted in terms of economic policy, while 21 per cent chose the Liberals, and 16 per cent the NDP. Unsure/no answer got a whopping 25 per cent on this question.


  • The survey involved 1,216 Canadians 18 years of age and older
  • It was conducted between March 12 and 15
  • Results are accurate to within 2.8 percentage points, 19 times out of 20