Which parties have the best policies on issues that voters care about?

With Parliament resuming this week, we thought it would be interesting to find out what issues Canadians want their political leaders to talk about and which political parties have the best policy on the issue.

This exercise is useful because it identifies the top issues that may effect the outcome of a federal election while providing some insight into which parties have the best issue definition.

Top Issues: Health care, the Economy, and Creating Jobs

Health care dominates as the top issue for most Canadians.  Seven in ten respondents (70%) said it was an important election issue but no party was seen as having the best policies as respondents who selected health split four ways between the NDP (25%), the Conservatives (22%), the Liberals (20%), and none of the parties (24%)  on identifying the party who had the best policies.

When it came to managing the economy and creating jobs (the next two top issues), the Conservative Party had a significant advantage over the other parties.  Forty-six percent (46%) of respondents who selected “managing the economy” as an important election issue said the Conservatives had the best policy, compared with 23% who said the Liberals and 8% who said the NDP.  The Conservatives also had a lead on the “creating jobs” issue outpacing the Liberals and NDP by double digits (CP 36%, Lib 24%, NDP 17%).

Mid-range issues: Taxation, Pensions, Seniors, and the Environment

Over four in ten Canadians also said that taxation, protecting pensions, caring for seniors, and protecting the environment were important issues in deciding their vote.  The Conservatives have a clear advantage on taxes with 40% of those caring about the issue saying they have the best policy (Liberal 15%, NDP 14%).  The opposition parties are more competitive with the Conservatives when it comes to protection pensions (CP 27%, NDP 25%, Lib 21%) and caring for seniors (NDP 33%, CP 22%, Lib 14%).

The environment was selected as an important issue for 42% of Canadians and the Green Party, not surprisingly, dominated as the party with the best policy on the issue for those who cared about it  (Greens 56%, NDP 13%, Lib and CP 10%).

Lesser Issues: Afghanistan, Public Transit, and Moral Issues

It seems that the debate over Afghanistan and Canada’s future there has been settled as only 14% of Canadians said that it was an important issue in deciding their vote – the issue least likely to be selected.  Other issues of non-importance to most Canadians included public transit (19% top issue) and moral issues like abortion or same sex marriage (19% top issue).


  1. Health care is the top issue but no party has a policy advantage yet.
  2. The Conservative Party is well positioned on three of the top four issues that Canadians identified as important to their vote (managing the economy, jobs, and reducing the deficit and debt).
  3. The Liberal Party has not carved out any unique policy areas as it does not lead on any policy issue tested in this survey.  The party lacks policy definition at the moment.
  4. The NDP does well on seniors, health care, and pensions but trails badly on the 2nd most important issue: managing the economy.  Until the party is viewed as sound economic managers, it will be difficult for it to breakthrough its current ceiling of 20% in the polls.
  5. The Green Party remains a single issue party. It dominates the other parties on the environment but hardly registers with voters on any other issue except for building public transit.


Between January 21 and 24, 2011, Abacus Data Inc. conducted an online survey among 1,105  randomly selected Canadian adults from an online panel of over 100,000 Canadians. The margin of error—which measures sampling variability—is comparable to +/- 3.0%, 19 times out of 20.

Results of the survey were statistically weighted by gender, age, region, and language using census data from Statistics Canada and by past vote using Elections Canada results from the 2008 General Election. Totals may not add up to 100 due to rounding.