Restrictions Are Lifting – Are Moods Improving?

A New Day or Just Another Fiasco?

So there are plans and proposals to reduce COVID Health Orders Restrictions across Canada. Alberta has a relatively “ambitious” approach towards “reopening” the economy and return to in-person school classes and a target for complete restriction removal by the end of June, all tied to target levels of sustained lower infections, hospitalizations, and ICU admissions.  This is driven by the increased and reliable availability and expanded participation in vaccination deployment.

There is a division in mindsets over the degree of restrictions in Public Health Orders.  There is a history of politically motivated UCP on-again-off-again on the scope and application of restrictions.  All past restriction easings have been ill-conceived and failed.  They were abandoned early but still resulted in increased infections, hospitalizations, ICU admissions, and deaths.  As a result, there is a widespread lack of trust in the integrity of the Kenney-driven current restriction regime.  The difference is this time we have the proven success of vaccinations at controlling infections, so should anticipate a more successful deployment?

Albertans are Very Moody

Various pollsters are testing the mood as vaccinations start to make a difference in infection rates, hospitalization admissions, and ICU levels.  The positive trends and continuing expectations mean COVID restrictions are being lifted in but in different ways and not all jurisdictions.

Abacus Data shows a 12 point improvement in Canadians who say the country is headed in the right direction, up from 33% to 45%.  Their survey shows 41% of Canadians believe the worst of the pandemic is behind us, but 44% just don’t know what to think, while 15% are still in the worst yet to come category..  The Leger poll shows 49% feel the worst is behind us.  Albertans have 39% in this positive headspace, according to Leger.

Albertans are in a very strange space according to Leger, compared to the rest of Canada.  We have a reputation of vocal anti-vaxxers yet 87%, second only to Quebecers at 90% who say they intend to get vaccinated as soon as possible.  Only 2% of Albertans say vaccines are not safe, and 15% just don’t know.  This is counterintuitive to the dominant narrative that Alberta is the hotbed of Anti-Vaxxers in Canada.

On the Anxiety scale, according to Leger,  Albertans are lowest in self-assessing positive COVID-related mental health at 19% with 77% feeling their mental health is bad.  Concurrently Albertans have the lowest levels of optimism about the future at 49%.

Angus Reid Institute reports that 64% of Canadians are still moderately to very concerned about being COVID infected after being vaccinated.  In mid-May, 51% of Canadians would still ban all International travel in our out of Canada while 34% would keep the current “strong discouragement of International travel” policy.  There are 48% of Canadians who would still insist on a 14-day at-home quarantine period for fully vaccinated persons entering Canada.

Canadians want proof of full vaccination to attend large gatherings like concerts (69%), restaurants, movies, churches (55%), and at their place of work (55%).  Proof of vaccination is seen as required to travel to the USA (76%) and other International travel (79%).

Back to “Normal” or Business as Unusual?

Leger looked at attitudes about returning to work.  Lots of attention is being paid to personal feelings around returning to socializing activities and positive mental health implications.  In a very recent survey, released May 31, insights emerge about the attitude of employers and employees around “post-pandemic” return to work.

There are 82% of Canadians, who are working from home, who says the experience was positive.  When considering returning to the workplace, 40% say they prefer a weekly mix of home and workplace activities.  Only 20% want a full stop of working from home or working exclusively at the office. Another 39% said they would look for other employment if their employer insisted they return to the office.

This data may foreshadow some significant changes in how, where and by whom, work is done when there is the flexibility option for workplace variations.  More telling is 50% say they would not be comfortable returning to work if some of their fellow workers were not vaccinated.  Expect proof of vaccination as a condition of employment in the near future and some legal challenges by hard-right Libertarian groups.

Some Alberta Perceptions

Twice as many Albertans lost jobs permanently (10%) or temporarily (10%) due to COVISD compared to other Canadians.  Albertans are the most likely to want to work only at the office a few days a month and from home the rest of the time (30%) and the least likely to work exclusively from home (5%).

We are most likely to see the convenience of working from home (73%), and more of us like avoiding the long commute (40%) but don’t really value the money save on gas\transportation costs (49%).  Only 28% believe there is a productivity boost from working from home.  But 37% of Albertans believe working from home has enabled them to be better parents for their children.  That value is recognized at twice the level of anywhere else in Canada.  That perception and value need deeper analysis.

It will be interesting to see if the Kenney Reopening Plan works the fourth time around, with the benefit of vaccinations and their deployment, or is he inviting the fourth wave of infections.  If this plan works, will he get political credit for it?

I think not, because he has a proven record of ineptitude and a history of bad COVID policy decisions. baked into Albertan’s attitudes and perceptions about his political acumen and integrity.  He is consistently and by far is the least popular Premier at a 29% approval rating for COVID performance, which is a proxy for overall approval these days.  Again, as in most things in Alberta these days. time will tell.


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