Voters support deep spending cuts, poll says
Canadians appear to be in an austerity state of mind, according to a new poll, which found that a vast majority of respondents would approve deep spending cuts by the federal government as it tries to squeeze $4 billion in annual savings out of its budget.
The Nanos Research survey asked respondents "what should be the target percentage cut from government departments" to achieve the savings goal.
According to the results, 74 per cent of respondents said the target percentage cut from government departments should be 6 per cent or greater.
Nineteen per cent of respondents said the government should consider slashing spending by as much as 30 per cent, while 26 per cent of respondents called for cuts of 5 per cent or less.
The random online survey of 1,001 Canadians was conducted between February 7 and 11. The data was weighted against the latest Census data so the final sample group would best reflect the Canadian populace.
The poll also found that nearly 60 per cent of respondents support the Harper government's savings targets.
Respondents were asked whether they "agree, somewhat agree, somewhat disagree or disagree with the government of Canada's objective of generating at least $4 billion in ongoing annual savings by 2014?"
Eighteen per cent of those surveyed said they "agree," while 41 per cent said they "somewhat agree." Another 18 per cent said they were "unsure."
The Harper government is expected to unveil its latest budget sometime in late March, though a date has yet to be announced. The new fiscal year begins on April 1.
Finance Minister Jim Flaherty has been tight-lipped about the budget's contents, but recently assured voters the document would not include "draconian" measures.
Last week, he would only say the budget will include "moderate" measures to cut government spending, and encouraged the provinces to do the same.
He also said a corporate tax hike is not under consideration as a measure to balance the books.
Pollster Nik Nanos said the survey's findings reflect the fact that Canadians are "expecting" cuts and restraint from the government.
"The issue is that when you move from the idea of cuts to actual cuts that the appetite may diminish," he said.
The Conservatives came under fire during last spring's election campaign for promising to balance the books by 2014-15. While that pledge seemed out of reach late last year when Flaherty feared slower economic growth, a strong third quarter, with growth at 3.5 per cent has put that target back on track.
While the Bank of Canada had previously predicted only about 1 per cent growth for the fourth quarter, the economy could in fact surge by 1.5 per cent to two per cent.
TD Bank Economist Sonya Gulati said last week that she expects this fiscal year's deficit to be about $26 billion -- or $5 billion below what Flaherty predicted in his fall economic update.
"As a result and all else equal, it looks like the government could squeeze out a surplus in 2014-15," she wrote in an analysis.
With files from The Canadian Press