Most Canadians think the federal government is overspending, according to a new survey conducted by the Angus Reid Institute, whose president says it signals a big shift in public sentiment from when the Liberals were first elected.

The survey, conducted last month among a random sample of Canadian adults, asked for perspectives on the federal government's spending and deficit ahead of its 2024 budget, set to be released next week.

It found that 59 per cent of Canadians believe the federal Liberals are spending too much, while 18 per cent said they think spending is within an acceptable range. Just eight per cent of respondents said they believe the federal government is underspending.

“The Liberals, politically, have always been a pretty ‘spend-y’ gang,” Angus Reid president Shachi Kurl told BNN Bloomberg in a Thursday television interview.

“(That’s) going all the way back to the 2015 election, where (Prime Minister) Justin Trudeau really broke through and had his moment after years of austerity and fiscal restraint under the (former Prime Minister Stephen) Harper years, saying: ‘Guess what, I'm going to run a deficit.’”

Kurl said that went against the “political orthodoxy” at the time, but the promise of increased spending on things like social programs struck a chord with many Canadians and helped propel the Liberals to a majority government.

Eight years later, Kurl said many Canadians have shifted their views.

“What you're seeing now is some concern, some fatigue, and Canadians wondering how all of this is going to get paid for,” she said.

“Does it mean new taxes for me? Does it mean less tax relief for me, or will it mean taxes at a corporate or a higher level, and what does that mean for my job and my work? (There’s) lots of concern there.”

Budget announcements 'not pleasing a lot of people'

Kurl said Trudeau’s Liberals have put a renewed focus on communicating their spending plans to Canadians, with the aim of taking back control of the fiscal narrative before budget day.

In recent weeks, Trudeau and his senior ministers have made numerous pre-budget announcements related to housing, childcare and artificial intelligence.

Prior to these announcements, Kurl said Pierre Poilievre and the federal Conservatives had dominated the news cycle around government spending by criticising many of Trudeau’s economic policies, most notably the carbon tax.

Kurl said the Liberals’ recent announcements have bought them time, and demonstrate that they “understand the assignment” in terms of political strategy.

“If the assignment was to do a better job communicating, that's what they're trying to do,” she said.

“It's going to please some people, (but) it's not pleasing a lot of people, and I think it's leaving some folks skeptical as to whether they'll even follow through on some of these promises.”


The data featured in this article is drawn from a survey conducted by the Angus Reid Institute from March 20 to 22, 2024, within a random, representative sample of 1,602 Canadian adults. The institute notes that for comparison purposes only, a sample of that size carries a margin of error of plus or minus two percentage points, 19 times out of 20. Totals may not add up to 100, due to rounding.

With files from CTV News