OTTAWA -- Canadians are deeply divided on whether this moment, during the COVID-19 pandemic and economic turmoil, is the best time to tackle climate change.

A survey conducted by Nanos Research for the University of Ottawa’s Positive Energy found that 45 per cent of Canadians say now is the "best time to be ambitious in addressing climate change even if there are costs to the economy."

Another 29 per cent, however, said it’s the worst time.

The survey found a regional divide when it comes to the issue. When asked to rate the timing on a scale of zero to 10, with zero being the worst time to take climate action and 10 being the best time, the Prairie provinces leaned far more aggressively towards this being the worst time to address climate change than the rest of Canada.

"Picture people in the Prairies yelling at their television sets whenever they hear about something like this, because they're probably saying stuff like, 'We should be focusing on the pandemic. We should be focused on the economy,'" said Nik Nanos, the chair of Nanos Research, in the latest Trend Line podcast episode. 

"Yes, the environment is important, but if you're in the Prairie provinces, you're more likely to want to be firmly focused on the economy and the pandemic."

However, Atlantic Canada, Quebec and British Columbia all favoured now being the best time for climate action -- and Ontario was split between the two options.

"Canadians are divided on this," said Nanos.

"But right now we're marginally tilting towards thinking that this is a good time to address climate change, even if it might be a little rough on the economic front."

The survey also found that almost half of Canadians prioritize protecting the environment at the expense of jobs -- though the percentage of Canadians who feel that way has dropped in relation to previous years. In August 2019, 61 per cent of Canadians said the environment should be prioritized over economic growth and jobs. This year, only 49 per cent of Canadians agreed with the statement.

"With people focused on the pandemic and the economy, the environment as a top issue of concern has suffered, but it still looks like there's appetite to move forward on this. But I think the key takeaway is we should be cautious," Nanos said.

"The ambition is there, but there are people that are worried about it."

Meanwhile, Nanos also took the pulse of Canadians on their feelings about the oil-and-gas sector. While the support for growth in that industry and renewable sectors remained comparable to the levels of support last year, there was a shift in Canadians' support for development of fossil fuel resources.

Compared to 2015, "fewer Canadians say it would be possible or somewhat possible for them to be more supportive of the development of fossil fuel resources," the survey explains.

In 2015, just shy of eight out of 10 Canadians said they’d be more supportive of the development of fossil fuel energy resources if Canada has more proactive climate-change policies in place, compared to just under six out of 10 Canadians in 2020.

The margin of error for this survey is ±3.1 percentage points, 19 times out of 20, and Nanos Research surveyed 1,049 Canadians over the phone or online between June 28th and July 2nd, 2020.