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Canadians’ confidence in health-care services hits a six-year low, says poll

Survey shows Canadians frustrated with health care, Poilievre may seize opportunity
Health-care workers at Vancouver General Hospital. Sixty-four per cent of British Columbians have confidence in the health-care system, according to new polling from Research Co.

Canadians’ relationship with the health-care system has always been fascinating to study. When elections roll around, voters tend to gravitate towards the politicians they dislike the most—federal or provincial—to explain why medical services have declined or will not improve.

Recently, more than three in five (64 per cent) told us they are “very confident” or “moderately confident” that Canada’s health-care system would be there to provide the help and assistance that they would need if they had to face an unexpected medical condition or disease.

We could look at this statistic and conclude that most Canadians are happy with the way medical services are being provided. This proportion, however, is the lowest in five separate surveys conducted by Research Co. over the past six years. Confidence in the preparedness of the health-care system to address our personal needs has dropped from 79 per cent in 2019 to 64 per cent in 2024.

Quebec residents used to be more likely to express reservations about medical services. This year, 64 per cent of Quebecers have confidence in the health-care system, tied with B.C., Saskatchewan and Manitoba. The numbers are a bit higher in Alberta (67 per cent) and Ontario (68 per cent). Atlantic Canada comes in last, at a particularly low 49 per cent.

Most Canadians (53 per cent, down three points since 2023) continue to say they believe there are some good things about Canada’s health-care system, but that many changes are required

Still, for the first time in our tracking, there are more Canadians who think the health-care system has so much wrong with it that it needs to be completely rebuilt (23 per cent, up six points) than there are who say they believe the health-care system works well and only requires minor changes (19 per cent, down one point).

Middle aged Canadians have emerged as an important demographic, sometimes experiencing the pitfalls of health-care delivery through their young children and/or aging parents.

When pondering the biggest problem facing the health-care system right now, more than a third of Canadians (37 per cent, up three points) mention a shortage of doctors and nurses. Fewer say it is long wait times (24 per cent, up one point), bureaucracy and poor management (14 per cent, down three points) or inadequate resources and facilities (eight per cent, down one point).

Not all provinces react equally on this question. Bureaucratic dismay reaches 20 per cent in Alberta, and concerns about long wait times stand at 30 per cent in Quebec. On the shortage of medical professionals, Atlantic Canada is the undisputed leader (53 per cent), followed by British Columbia (41 per cent).

On another question, sentiments are beginning to shift. More than a third of Canadians (35 per cent, up two points) think health care in Canada would be better if it were run by the private sector. Canadians aged 55 and over are less likely to feel this way (24 per cent) than their counterparts aged 35 to 54 (35 per cent) and aged 18 to 34 (46 per cent).

Almost half of Conservative voters in the 2021 election (48 per cent, up five points) are convinced that a private option for medical services would be beneficial.

The results suggest that Conservative leader Pierre Poilievre could benefit from a unique situation during the 2025 federal election campaign: A public that is growing more upset with the health-care system and rising proportions of Canadians—and Conservative supporters—thinking that a private option would be welcome.

Mario Canseco is president of Research Co.

Results are based on an online study conducted from May 20-22, 2024, among 1,000 adults in Canada. The data has been statistically weighted according to Canadian census figures for age, gender and region. The margin of error is plus or minus 3.1 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.