Free Trade and the Canadian Economy

The federal Conservatives have staked a lot of their reputation for sound economic stewardship on their determination to forge more trade ties with the rest of the world.  A new Abacus poll shows this agenda has a fair bit of public appeal.


Canada-Korea Trade Agreement

By a healthy margin of 41% to 28% Canadians believe the new trade deal with Korea will be good rather than bad for the economy.  While voters in the west are most convinced of the merits, the plurality of voters in Ontario, Quebec and Atlantic Canada, are all more likely to see upside than downside.


This is one idea that can do more than just rally the Conservative base.  60% of Conservative voters see benefits, compared to only 19% who see downsides.  But Liberal voters are 41% optimistic and 27% pessimistic.  Even NDP voters are split with equal numbers saying this will be good for the economy (31%) as bad (32%)


Canada-Europe Trade Agreement

Opinion is even more positive about the prospects of economic gains from the agreement negotiated with the EU.  Across the country, 58% expect it will be good rather than damaging (15%) to the economy.

Enthusiasm is pretty high across the country.  Support is least strong in Atlantic Canada, but even there 50% foresee benefits, while only 15% anticipate downsides.


Support for CETA cuts across partisan lines.  While the split among Conservatives is 78% positive-10% negative, it is pretty strong among Liberal voters (56%-15%) and even among NDP voters (53%-21%).

Analysis by Bruce Anderson:

“Canadian public opinion on trade liberalization has evolved a lot since the 1988 election on the Canada-US Free Trade Agreement.  More and more Canadians have come to believe that the country can and in fact must succeed in a global marketplace and that trade agreements, far from having wrecked the Canadian economy, have provided it with more opportunities for success.  While these debates can still be contentious, the burden of proof has clearly shifted: these days opponents need to make a more compelling case if they want to want the public to stand in the way of these deals.”

Analysis by David Coletto:

The trade deals being concluded by the Harper Government have broad support across the country.  A plurality of Canadians think the South Korean deal will be good for the Canadian economy and a majority believe the EU trade deal will have a positive impact on the economy.  While Ontarians seem to be more cautious and less optimistic about the South Korean deal but there is broad support west of Ontario.

Politically for the Harper Government, these trade deals are wins-wins: they are popular with the party’s base as well as with swing voters and those who would consider voting Liberal or Conservative.  Only the NDP faces a tough choice on the South Korea deal as half of its supporters favour it while half are opposed.”


The survey was conducted online with 1,164 respondents. A random sample of panelists was invited to complete the survey from a large representative panel of Canadians, recruited and managed by Research Now, one of the world’s leading provider of online research samples. The survey was conducted from March 19 to 23, 2014

The Marketing Research and Intelligence Association policy limits statements about margins of sampling error for most online surveys.   The margin of error for a comparable probability-based random sample of the same size is +/- 3.0%, 19 times out of 20.

The data were weighted according to census data to ensure that the sample matched Canada’s population according to age, gender, educational attainment, and region. Totals may not add up to 100 due to rounding. For more information please contact David Coletto, CEO at or at 613-232-2806 or Bruce Anderson at


Abacus Data is an innovative, fast growing public opinion and marketing research consultancy. We use the latest technology, sound science, and deep experience to generate top-flight research based advice to our clients.  We offer global research capacity with a strong focus on customer service, attention to detail and exceptional value.

Our team combines the experience of our Chairman Bruce Anderson, one of Canada’s leading research executives for two decades, with the energy, creativity and research expertise of CEO David Coletto, PhD. For more information, visit our website at