Most Canadians believe that companies should have to make a legal commitment to maintaining jobs in Canada before receiving financial assistance from the government, according to a new Nanos Research survey.

The survey, which was commissioned by CTV News, found that nine in 10 Canadians agreed or somewhat agreed when asked whether or not “companies should have to accept a legal commitment to maintain a certain number of jobs in Canada for a certain number of years before accepting government financial assistance?”

The survey comes after General Motors announced in November that it would be shuttering its plant in Oshawa, Ont., affecting nearly 3,000 jobs. In 2009, the federal government loaned GM $10.8 billion to help keep the American automotive giant afloat as it faced insolvency. That loan came on condition that the company maintain its Canadian operations for six years.

The survey also asked Canadians’ opinions on spending tax dollars on energy companies, what factors Crown corporations such as Via Rail should consider when making purchases and how the government should have handled the closing of a Nova Scotia call centre.

Legal commitment to maintain Canadian jobs

Of those surveyed about companies maintaining Canadian jobs as a legal prerequisite for receiving government financial assistance, only five per cent of respondents chose “disagree” or “somewhat disagree” as their answer, versus 70 per cent for “agree” and 22 per cent for “somewhat agree.” Three per cent chose “unsure.”

Only minor geographic and demographic disparities were noted in responses, with those in Quebec (96.6 per cent) and those aged 55 or over (94.9 per cent) most likely to choose “agree” or “somewhat agree.”

Nik Nanos is the founder of Nanos Research and its chief data scientist.

“What this suggests is that Canadians want to ensure that if the government provides assistance to companies to keep jobs in Canada, that there should be specific commitments related to how long those jobs will exist and how many of those jobs,” Nanos explained in a phone interview with “So, one way to look at this is that the blank cheque of providing assistance to keep jobs open does not have a lot of appetite.”

Spending tax dollars on energy companies

In mid-December, the federal government announced that it would be offering up to $1.6 billion in funding for Alberta’s struggling energy sector through loans and export development assistance.

That move seems to have been somewhat unpopular with Canadians, with just over half saying they oppose (26 per cent) or somewhat oppose (29 per cent) the government spending tax dollars to support the energy industry. Meanwhile, nearly two in five Canadians support (13 per cent) or somewhat support (25 per cent) such spending while seven per cent were unsure.

“What’s fairly clear from the research is that Canadians are clearly divided when it comes to providing government support to the energy sector because of the low price of oil,” Nanos said.

“What’s interesting is that when you look at areas like Ontario and the Prairies, for example, they’re more likely to support,” he added. “This should be considered a mixed bag in terms of politics, because you’re more likely to divide Canadians when it comes to providing federal dollar support for the energy sector.”

Crown corporations contracts

In December, Crown corporation Via Rail declared that it had selected a German company over Quebec-based Bombardier Inc. for a $989 million contract to modernize its passenger rail service. Bombardier has previously come under fire from the Toronto Transit Commission for tardy deliveries and mechanical issues with a new fleet of streetcars.

At 62 per cent, a majority of Canadians, the Nanos survey found, believed that “Crown corporations like Via Rail should factor in all aspects of a potential purchase including price, value and ability to deliver even if it means not purchasing from a Canadian company.” Just 29 per cent, meanwhile, said that Crown corporations should be “obligated to buy from Canadian companies regardless of any other outstanding issues.” Nine per cent were unsure.

“This particular question kind of explores the trade-off behind value for money and obligations to buy Canadian,” Nanos explained. “What the research suggests is that more than six out of every 10 Canadians, by a margin of two to one, would want corporations like Via Rail to look at the big picture in terms of price, value and availability to deliver. And that is more important, at least, than a straight up obligation to buy from Canadian companies.”

Government loans to Cape Breton call centre employees

In early December, it was announced that a U.S.-owned call centre in the town of Sydney on Nova Scotia’s Cape Breton Island would be closing, putting nearly 700 people out of work. The centre had previously received loans from Ottawa as well as payroll tax rebates to help keep it running. Fortunately for the affected workers, another American businessman purchased the call centre later that month to keep it operational.

In the Nanos survey, respondents were given several options when asked, “Which of the following would be the best approach for governments to take with the closure and loss of jobs?”

At 56 per cent, the majority said that the government should “give new financial incentives to attract new investors to take over the call centre.” At 21 per cent, the second most common response was that the government should do nothing. Only six per cent believed that the government “should provide more loans and other incentives to the company to allow it to keep the 700 jobs in Cape Breton” while 16 per cent were unsure.

At 61.9 per cent each, female respondents and those in Ontario were the most likely to choose the most popular response.

“What the survey suggests is… that Canadians are good with financial incentives to attract investors for the call centre,” Nanos said. “They key takeaway here is that more than six out of every 10 Canadians would support some sort of action to try to attract (investors) and keep those jobs.”

Survey methodology

These observations are based on a hybrid telephone and online random survey of 1,000 Canadians, 18 years of age or older, between Dec. 30, 2018 and Jan. 5, 2019 as part of an omnibus survey. Participants were randomly recruited by telephone using live agents and administered a survey online.

The margin of error for a random survey of 1,000 Canadians is plus or minus 3.1 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

This study was commissioned by CTV News and the research was conducted by Nanos Research.

With files from The Canadian Press