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Survey suggests Manitoba residents are concerned about costs and have less trust in institutions

Survey suggests Manitoba residents are concerned about costs and have less trust in institutions

WINNIPEG — A provincial government-commissioned poll shows Manitobans are increasingly concerned about the cost of living and crime, and have less confidence in the justice system and public services.

WINNIPEG — A provincial government-commissioned poll shows Manitobans are increasingly concerned about the cost of living and crime, and have less confidence in the justice system and public services.

The Benchmark survey, conducted by polling agency Leger, is normally conducted every few months and provides the government with insight into the public’s greatest concerns and wishes.

The online survey, which was created in March, was recently obtained by The Canadian Press under the provincial Freedom of Information Act.

The biggest concern among the 800 survey respondents was the rising cost of things like housing, food and gas, with 81 percent saying they were worried. That’s up from 78 percent and 71 percent in two previous surveys last year.

Waiting times in healthcare were the second biggest concern at 71 percent. This hasn’t changed much. Crime and public safety were in third place at 66 percent, up 11 percentage points from a year earlier.

Financial worries were common despite the province’s low unemployment rate, which hovers around 5 per cent, and relatively affordable housing. The average home price in Manitoba in May was $371,224, compared with the national average of $699,117, according to recent data from the Canadian Real Estate Association.

More than half of respondents were discouraged about Manitoba’s economic outlook, and six in 10 were discouraged or very uncertain about the outlook for their personal financial situation.

The poll was conducted between February 21 and 27. No margin of error can be assigned, because online polls are not considered truly random samples.

An economist said that people have been hit on three fronts since the COVID-19 pandemic: high inflation, a rise in interest rates and rising energy prices.

“Over the past few years, we’ve had a pretty long period of relatively low or even declining inflation rates and extremely low interest rates,” said Fletcher Baragar, an associate professor of economics at the University of Manitoba.

“There is reason for some optimism going forward. But changes like falling interest rates and falling inflation rates — those will be gradual.”

Recent data from Statistics Canada shows that Manitoba’s overall inflation is low. This is partly because the government suspended the provincial fuel tax for nine months, effective January 1. However, inflation for store-bought food is above the national average.

When asked what the government’s top priority should be to make life more affordable, 14 percent of respondents named fuel tax relief. Twice as many said the government should focus on making housing affordable.

The poll also suggests Manitobans are more cautious about some public institutions. More than half said they trusted the police and public service, but the numbers for both were down 10 points from a year earlier.

Less than half of respondents said they trusted unions, provincial politicians, the justice system, courts and the media. Nearly half said they did not trust the government to act in the best interests of the public.

The highest scores for trust were achieved by local businesses (80 percent) and local non-profits and charities (71 percent).

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 7, 2024.

Steve Lambert, The Canadian Press