The federal government conducted a poll asking Canadians what made them more likely to take COVID-19 shots months before mandates related to the vaccines were enforced, records show.
The survey, conducted from May 5–12 of 2021, was Ottawa’s attempt to mine data using the World Health Organization’s “Behavioural Insights (BI) Tool” to support its efforts in “promoting the behaviours recommended by public health experts” during the pandemic.
Over 2,000 Canadians aged 18 and over were polled from an online panel by the Privy Council Office, as first reported by Blacklock’s Reporter.
Respondents were asked about options such as paying people to take a COVID vaccine or restricting those who chose not to by denying them access to “certain activities.”
“Once a COVID-19 [vaccine] is available to you, to what extent would each of the following hypothetical measures make you more or less likely to get the vaccine right away?” the poll asked.
A total of 46 percent supported “financial reward from government,” said the report, titled “Applying Behavioural Science To The Government Of Canada’s Response To Covid-19.”
Forty-four percent endorsed compulsory orders that “getting the vaccine was mandatory to engage in certain activities.” Another 35 percent said “somewhat likely,” while 13 percent responded “not likely.”
The report noted financial rewards may be more effective for some demographic groups.
“For example, financial incentives appear to be more effective at encouraging visible minority respondents and younger respondents (18-34) to get a vaccine right away compared to nonvisible minority and older respondents,” it said.
‘Risks of Backfire’
However, researchers warned of “risks of backfire” should the government proceed with financial incentives or resort to making the shots a requirement in order to engage in certain activities.
“All measures were most effective in increasing the likelihood of vaccination for those who already intend to be vaccinated right away, and less effective for those who want to wait or who are unsure,” they wrote.
The report, dated May 12, 2021, was released by Impact Canada—months after Health Canada authorized the first pandemic vaccine by Pfizer-BioNTech on Dec. 9, 2020.
During an interview at the Reuters Next conference on Jan. 14, 2021, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he was opposed to the idea of mandating people to carry digital proof that they had been vaccinated against COVID-19.
“We always know there are people who won’t get vaccinated and not necessarily through a personal or political choice. There are medical reasons, there are a broad range of reasons why someone might not get vaccinated,” he told a reporter.
Trudeau said implementing a vaccine passport would be fraught with challenges and create “undesirable knock-on effects in our community.”
“I think the indications that the vast majority of Canadians are looking to be vaccinated will get us to a good place without having to take more extreme measures that could have real divisive impacts on community and country,” he said.
Change of Tone
Trudeau’s tone changed with the launch of the federal election on Aug. 15, 2021, which he said was a referendum on vaccine mandates. He said if he was re-elected, measures mandating air travellers, border crossers, and federally-regulated employees to show proof of vaccination would be enforced.
At a campaign rally on Aug. 31, 2021, the prime minister depicted Canadians who chose not to get vaccinated as “putting at risk their own kids, and they’re putting at risk our kids as well.”
In September 2021, Trudeau questioned whether people who refuse COVID vaccination should be tolerated.
“They are extremists who don’t believe in science. They’re often misogynists, also often racists, he said during an interview on the French-language program La semaine des 4 Julie.
“It’s a small group that muscles in, and we have to make a choice in terms of leaders, in terms of the country. Do we tolerate these people?”
Noé Chartier contributed to this report.