angus reid poll

Fierce debate erupts online over whether Canada should lift all COVID restrictions

An increasing percentage of Canadians are fed up with lengthy government shutdowns, a new poll suggests, after nearly two years of living under constantly changing pandemic-inspired restrictions.

The non-profit Angus Reid Institute recently conducted an online survey on the topic of COVID-19 with a strong focus on the Omicron variant, the results of which were released Monday as Saskatchewan announced plans to scrap vaccine passports, Ontario moved into its second day of reopening (again) and Denmark lifted public health restrictions entirely.

A representative randomized sample of 1,688 Canadian adults were asked on Jan. 27 and Jan. 28 about how many people in their homes got sick over the holidays, which symptoms they observed, and whether or not they were fomally tested for the virus, among other things.

The results — which cannot be contrasted against goverment testing numbers in Ontario due to the restriction of PCR tests — showed that about one in every five households saw at least one case of COVID-19 over the past two months, 36 per cent of them just after the holiday season in January and 42 per cent in December.

Also included in the survey were questions about public health measures, such as those that were lifted yesterday, which initially came into place across Ontario on Jan. 5, shuttering gyms, cinemas, bars, indoor restaurants and more.

Participants were asked to either agree, strongly agree, disagree or strongly disagree with the statement "It's time to end restrictions and let people self-isolate if they're at risk."

Some 32 per cent of people agreed strongly while 22 per cent agreed, for a collective total of 54 per cent in favour of restrictions like vaccine mandates ending.

"With Omicron now appearing to have peaked, many Canadians are leaning toward reducing restrictions related to COVID-19 control in Canada," reads the report.

"A majority (54%) now say it is time to remove restrictions and let Canadians manage their own level of risk, an increase of 15 percentage points since this question was asked in early January."

Officials in Toronto and at the provincial level are now saying that they're "cautiously optimistic" about the future of Omicron, with cases of COVID caused by the variant appearing to have peaked.

Premier Doug Ford stated on Tuesday during a press conference that the goal is to reopen in such a manner that lockdowns never have to take place again, but Ontarians are understandably worried. We've heard this all before.

With businesses such as gyms and restaurants once again reopening after a month-long shutdown, some (like those supporting the truckers who've flocked to Ottawa in protest against vaccine mandates) want certainty that the days of shifting lockdowns are done.

"If Omicron cases have indeed ebbed, it has many Canadians asking what is next. Vigilance is the request from public health officials — though plans for vaccination proof have begun to diverge, with some provinces removing requirements and restrictions," writes Angus Reid.

"The public sentiment appears to be moving in the direction of opening up communities. Indeed, in the past two weeks the number of Canadians saying they would like to see restrictions ended has risen by 15 percentage points, to a majority (54%)."

News of the poll's results struck a chord online early this week, prompting the term "54% of Canadians" to Trend on Twitter nationally for much of Monday.

Those involved in the aforementioned "freedom convoy" have been holding up the statistic as evidence that their unruly protests have been justified or even working to sway opinions.

Law enforcement and government officials would undoubtedly disagree that the actions of convoy supporters have done anything to stoke public sentiment in their favour.

People with more moderate beliefs who would like to see restrictions removed but not to the point of waving confederate flags and peeing on war monuments are trying to distance the idea of a full reopening from the truck convoy.

Others are cautioning gloating truckers against taking the results of a poll as fact.

Angus Reid surveyed 1,688 people for this poll. Based on its methodology and sample size, the institute cites a margin of error around +/- 2.5 percentage points.

People are nonetheless getting heated on the topic, with those staunchly against the lifting of restrictions speaking out in great numbers alongside their polar opposites on Twitter.

"54% of Canadians are willing to throw anyone with an immunosuppressive condition under the bus so they can go to Boston pizza," reads one popular tweet from Monday with 3,600 likes.

"54% of Canadians realize that we can and have the tools to protect the immunosuppressive and should be the government responsibility to ensure they have proper care while leaving the rest continue so that we can produce the resources necessary to sustain the immunosuppressive," wrote another in response.

Many people played off the Twitter trend as a joke, or used it to express simple pandemic frustrations.

Others used the statistic as a springboard to advocate for creative solutions, such as lifting restrictions only for those who have three doses of a COVID-19 approved vaccine.

There are no moves that will please everybody, as Ford and other politicians have admitted. All we can say for certain is that Canadians are extremely passionate about the issue on both sides of the political spectrum. 

In Ontario, restrictions were actually pulled back quite a bit this week with the reopening of bars, restaurants, gyms and more.

Enhanced proof of vaccination, mandatory face coverings and several other requirements will continue to apply in existing settings until further notice.

Lead photo by

Francesco Mariani

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