A new survey shows that growing numbers of Canadians are finding it harder to put food on the table as the country’s annual inflation rate reaches a 30-year high.
The Angus Reid Institute poll, conducted online between Jan. 7 and Jan. 12, shows that three in five Canadians (57 percent) say it is “difficult” to feed their households, a 20 percent increase since the institute asked the same question in 2019.
In addition, two in five Canadians (39 percent) say they are financially worse off now than last year, which is the highest number of Canadians who have reported this since 2010, according to previous Angus Reid polling.
In contrast, 44 percent of the respondents say they were able to maintain their economic well-being in 2021, the lowest number who have reported this since 2010. Fewer Canadians (16 percent) say they are financially better off, a drop from 23 percent in 2020
The poll suggests Canada’s 30-year high inflation rate is a factor behind the struggle many households are having to sustain themselves.
The data in Statistics Canada’s consumer price index shows a year-over-year increase of 4.8 percent on all items—a number only surpassed by the record increase of 5.5 percent in September 1991.
The national statistical agency also reported increases in average retail prices for food in a year-over-year comparison. For example, the price for cooking or salad oil rose from $3.04 per litre in December 2020 to $4.30 per litre in December 2021, a 41.4 percent increase.
Regular unleaded gasoline at self-serve stations rose from $104.40 per litre in December 2020 to $1.40 per litre in December 2021, an increase of 34 percent.
The survey also reveals that four out of five Canadians say the increase in the cost of living has outpaced any income growth in their households.
To better understand how financial stress is affecting Canadians, Angus Reid created an Economic Stress Index to analyze variables like debt, housing costs, and household food expenditures. The index divides Canadians into four groups based on their level of financial stress: thriving (24 percent), comfortable (24 percent), uncomfortable (25 percent), and struggling (27 percent).
For those in the “struggling” quartile, a staggering 98 percent say they are facing challenges feeding their households, including 60 percent that say it is difficult with 38 percent saying it is very difficult. The task is also challenging for those who fall in the “uncomfortable” quartile, with an overall 80 percent finding it more difficult to put food on their tables.
The poll finds there is not an even distribution of the “struggling” population across Canada, but at least one in three Canadians in every region across the country say they are worse off than they were last year, with the highest number in Alberta (49 percent), Saskatchewan (47 percent), and Newfoundland and Labrador (47 percent) with the smallest proportion in Quebec (33 percent).
“The struggling see little hope ahead,” the poll concludes, with many respondents saying the second year of the COVID-19 pandemic has made things worse for them financially.
Angus Reid randomly surveyed 5,002 Canadian adults who are members of the Angus Reid Forum. The study carries a margin of error of +/- 2.0 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.