Custom research studies—18th Annual Report on Government of Canada Public Opinion Research Activities

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There are many reasons why federal departments contract custom research studies. First of all, to learn how their policies, programs and communications efforts are viewed by Canadians. Custom-built research instruments provide a deep understanding of the awareness levels and measure opinions.

In this section

Examples of custom research studies

The following briefly describes some of the custom research studies contracted during the 2018 to 2019 fiscal year. A list of all custom research studies is available in the Appendices: 18th Annual Report on Government of Canada Public Opinion Research Activities of this report.

Survey of consumers’ comprehension of home equity lines of credit

The Financial Consumer Agency of Canada surveyed Canadians to measure their awareness and understanding of the key terms and conditions associated with home equity lines of credit. These complicated financial products are not easily understood, especially when combined with traditional mortgages (called “readvanceable mortgages”).

Although several million Canadians have home equity lines of credit, most survey respondents (74%) scored less than 50% on their knowledge of their terms and conditions.

More than 25% of respondents routinely made interest-only payments and 19% of respondents borrowed more than intended.

Renovations, debt consolidation, vehicle purchases and daily expenses were the main uses of home equity lines of credit.

Reference: 2018 Survey of Consumers’ Comprehension of Home Equity Lines of Credit (registration number: POR 004-18)

Survey of internet users regarding cyber security

In 2018, the Government of Canada introduced a new National Cyber Security Strategy to protect Canadians from cyber threats. At the same time, Public Safety Canada put together a cyber security research study to learn more about public awareness of malicious cyber activity. The research project assessed the “Get Cyber Safe” awareness campaign, and identified motivators and barriers to behaviour change. It also looked at the best ways of communicating how to stay safe online. Finally, it examined public expectations of the roles of governments and non-governmental organizations in cyber security.

Online Canadians spend an average of 5 hours online each day, and 98% have an email account.

Half of Canadian Internet users say they are very concerned about having their personal information obtained and used without permission. The vast majority take measures to protect their devices and personal information online. These measures include:

  • downloading files only from trusted sources
  • keeping anti-virus software up-to-date
  • locking devices with password protection
  • password-protecting their Wi-Fi connections
  • using caution with unknown sources

Still, nearly half of Canadians report using the same password for multiple accounts, and 4 in 10 allow their browsers to store their passwords.

Canadians have been proactively looking for information about online threats. Examples of information sought: protecting devices with anti-virus software (48%), how to secure home networks (38%), and how to tell if an email is a scam (38%). Two-thirds of Canadians are confident they can protect themselves online so long as they have the basic information on steps to take.

Many parents feel they have the information needed to protect their children online. That being said, 4 in 10 also agree that they cannot keep up with the apps, games, and other technologies that young people are using.

Reference: Survey of Internet Users Regarding Cyber Security (registration number: POR 032-18)

Elections Canada qualitative research regarding ballot redesign

Elections Canada had been considering several slight modifications that would make election ballots easier to use. To support the design of a new ballot, Elections Canada held 6 focus groups and 11 in-person, in-depth interviews with eligible electors. Participants were taken from the general public, but also included persons with physical, visual and cognitive disabilities.

The qualitative research uncovered some preferences for characteristics of ballots.

Almost everyone agreed that a somewhat larger size ballot was easier to read and use. A strong preference was expressed for dashes rather than dots. The previous ballot had rows of dots on the blank spaces around the candidates’ names and party affiliations. Participants liked candidate surnames put in a uniform upper case text. They also stressed the importance of shading and sharp contrast to make the names of the candidates and the parties clear and distinct and easy to read.

Reference: Ballot Redesign Focus Groups (registration number: POR 001-18)

Survey of consumer perceptions of food products

Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada regularly surveys Canadians to determine their attitudes and opinions towards food.

In 2019, Wave 5 of their Survey of Consumer Perceptions of Food was completed. The survey measured Canadians’ perceptions on a variety of topics, such as: food quality, attributes they look for when making food purchases and where they get their information about food and nutrition.

The survey showed that respondents most often seek food items that they consider to be best value for money spent (84%) and based on the food items nutritional value (76%).

Many respondents are increasingly considering the origin of the food, as opposed to convenience when making food choices. For example, 69% sought items labeled as “Product of Canada” or “Made in Canada”, 63% sought items that are locally produced and 57% sought country of origin; this is up from 52%, 48% and 38% respectively in 2014.

In contrast, approximately half (49%) noted they make food choices based on convenience, a slight decrease from 2014 (50%).

Reference: Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada Survey of Consumer Perceptions of Food: Wave 5 (2018 to 2019) (registration number: POR 066-18)

Volume of custom research studies by department

A total of 35 departments contracted custom public opinion research studies between April 1, 2018 and March 31, 2019.


The amounts reported represent the contract value. This includes amendments to increase or reduce the contract value during the 2018 to 2019 fiscal year. The negative figures (written with a minus sign in front) indicate that these contracts were issued in a previous fiscal year, but were amended downward in the following reporting year.

Table 1: Volume of custom research studies by department in 2018 to 2019
Department Number of research studies Contract value
Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada 3 $411,487.91
Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency 1 $3,898.50
Canada Border Services Agency 1 $122,328.15
Canada Revenue Agency 16 $1,155,492.70
Canada School of Public Service 1 -$15,683.44
Canadian Food Inspection Agency 1 $112,858.09
Canadian Heritage 1 $69,938.98
Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission 2 $288,025.33
Canadian Transportation Agency 2 $9,203.85
Department for Women and Gender Equality 2 $318,853.23
Department of Finance Canada 4 $530,865.01
Department of Justice Canada 1 $59,955.88
Employment and Social Development Canada 6 $662,254.27
Environment and Climate Change Canada 1 $77,519.70
Financial Consumer Agency of Canada 6 $974,465.43
Fisheries and Oceans Canada 1 $99,934.26
Global Affairs Canada 3 $312,415.86
Health Canada 27 $3,739,743.73
Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada 8 $565,619.49
Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada 3 $568,270.67
Library and Archives Canada 1 $59,332.91
National Defence 5 $208,517.50
Natural Resources Canada 4 $329,386.91
Office of the Chief Electoral Officer 6 $547,568.23
Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions Canada 3 $187,683.62
Offices of the Information and Privacy Commissioners of Canada 1 $66,185.51
Parks Canada 3 $163,165.45
Privy Council Office 4 $999,154.59
Public Safety Canada 5 $333,413.28
Public Services and Procurement Canada 2 $64,534.30
Royal Canadian Mounted Police 1 $74,947.25
Statistics Canada 1 $17,119.50
Transport Canada 3 $231,966.85
Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat 1 $471,205.99
Veterans Affairs Canada 7 $540,660.59
Total 137 $14,362,290.08

Volume of custom research studies by supplier

In total, the government awarded contracts for custom public opinion research services to 22 research firms. These firms delivered various research services, ranging from survey data collection to full qualitative and/or quantitative research services (research design, data collection, analysis and reporting).


The amounts reported represent the contract value. This includes amendments to increase or reduce the contract value during the 2018 to 2019 fiscal year.

Table 2: Volume of custom research studies by supplier in 2018 to 2019
Supplier Number of research studies Contract value
Advanis Jolicoeur 3 $970,665.99
Advitek Inc. 1 $1,322.10
Community Development Council Durham 1 $6,458.23
Corporate Research Associates Inc. 12 $1,109,382.36
Ekos Research Associates Inc. 21 $1,480,894.88
Elemental Data Collection Inc. 2 $502,375.40
Environics Research Group Limited 21 $2,993,167.79
Forum Research Inc. 1 $49,983.45
Gregg, Kelly, Sullivan and Woolstencroft: The Strategic Counsel 3 $180,348.00
Ipsos-Reid Corporation 8 $1,282,643.79
Kantar TNS Inc. 6 $460,871.95
Léger Marketing 7 $576,427.60
London School of Economics and Political Science 1 $22,600.00
Parkdale Community Legal Services 1 $4,830.75
Peel Newcomer Strategy Group 1 $4,520.00
Phoenix SPI 20 $1,893,125.69
Pollara 2 $184,077.74
Quorus Consulting Group Inc. 7 $807,188.27
RIWI Corp. 1 $24,814.80
Sage Research Corporation 4 $273,664.53
St Stephen’s Community House 1 $2,346.73
The Earnscliffe Strategy Group Inc. 13 $1,530,580.03
Total 137 $14,362,290.08

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