The past 12 months felt like they stretched over a decade rather than a single year. Our lives were upended to a degree none of us could have imagined at this time last year. 

While it’s difficult to say with any certainty what the next 12 months will bring, we want to share with our clients some forecasting and ideas about what 2021 may have in store based upon what we’ve been hearing from Manitoba citizens and businesses.

Short-term struggles as we await a vaccine

The Manitoba government has announced the current public health restrictions will continue until January – which means Manitobans won’t be able to gather (legally) with friends and family this holiday season. Although disappointing, this won’t come as a surprise to most Manitobans. In a survey we conducted in early November, we found that only a very optimistic two per cent of Manitobans figured we would definitely be allowed to gather with friends and family over the holidays. 

Manitobans Pessimistic about Christmas Gatherings

Besides the disappointment of not being able to celebrate together safely, there is no doubt the pandemic is taking a serious emotional and financial toll on many Manitobans. Our most recent results for the Winnipeg Free Press find that seven-in-ten Manitobans report their emotional and mental health is worse today compared to earlier in the year, with slightly fewer than one-half saying their personal relationships have suffered. Meanwhile, four-in-ten report their personal financial situation has deteriorated since the onset of the pandemic.

Impact of COVID-19

Women are more likely to be taking the brunt of the emotional toll caused by the pandemic, while those with lower socio-economic status are more likely to be struggling personally and financially. This has significant potential implications for businesses, government, associations and not-for-profit organizations, as their employees and volunteers may struggle with absenteeism and burnout even as we see COVID-19 fading in the rear-view mirror. These organizations will need to understand at a deeper and more qualitative level what they can do to support these friends and colleagues as they come through this tough time.

In the longer term, we expect much of our focus in 2021 will be on the rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine. We know Manitobans are enthusiastic to get inoculated – in early November, more than six-in-ten said they will definitely get the COVID-19 vaccine once it becomes available, with another one-in-five saying they will probably get it.

Likelihood of getting Vacinated if Available

For governments, managing expectations will be critical. We know that older Manitobans and those with higher levels of education and household income are most enthusiastic to get the jab once they have the chance. While many will be very keen to get inoculated, there is a smaller yet significant subset of the population – between one-in-five and one-in-ten Manitobans – who will not rush out to get vaccinated, for a variety of reasons. 

We have found consistently that there is a small yet sizable group of Manitobans who are less likely to follow public health advice, more skeptical about COVID’s threat and more resistant to appeals to protect themselves and others. We expect this to apply to the vaccine as well. For policymakers, it will be critical to understand their motivations for not getting vaccinated and identify ways to encourage them to do so.

Business confidence could bounce back

We expect Manitoba businesses will have very different views on the state of the economy and their businesses compared to when we last gauged their opinions in February – just a few weeks before the pandemic struck.

Last year, six-in-ten business leaders were optimistic about Manitoba’s economic future. One-third expected their businesses to do better in the next 12 months, compared to one-in-five who expected things to be worse. It remains an open question as to whether our traditionally optimistic and resilient business community will show signs of recovery and positivity or, instead, if we will see a business community taking small, cautious steps towards the new normal.

Business Leaders Optimistic about Economic Future
Business Expectation Post COVID

The 2020 Manitoba Business Leaders survey goes into field in late February and promises to deliver many useful and interesting insights to organizations looking to find out how Manitoba companies expect to come through what’s been a very challenging year.

Manitoba’s political landscape may be in for major changes

When the Progressive Conservative party won its second sweeping majority in September 2019, many expected the province’s political climate to remain calm for the foreseeable future. The past few months have demonstrated that much can change when things are going wrong.

The most recent results of our quarterly provincial vote intention question shows PC support has slipped in a major way, with the NDP now holding a slight lead. There were many signs leading up to this suggesting that PC support was about to fall, including:

  • Approval of the provincial government’s efforts to protect Manitobans’ health plunged sharply between June and November, with confidence in its work to address the economy also falling by a significant degree.
  • Fewer than one-half of Manitobans approve of the job Premier Brian Pallister and Health Minister Cameron Friesen are doing during the pandemic. 
MB Government's Handling of COVID
Views of Political Leaders during COVID

Pallister has publicly argued his lack of personal popularity can be attributed to the fact he’s the one making tough decisions to “cancel Christmas,” among other things – even as many Manitobans say what they’re more upset about is the provincial government’s lack of response as COVID-19 cases rose in October and November.

With the NDP now ahead province-wide and extending its lead in vote-rich Winnipeg, we expect some will start speculating whether it may be time for someone else in the PC party to take over as the self-appointed captain of “Team Manitoba.” If so – and with Winnipeg Mayor Brian Bowman already stating this will be his last term – we expect 2021 may be a more interesting political year than previously expected.

Regardless of what happens in the coming months, on behalf of the entire Probe Research team, we wish you a safe and healthy holiday season and all the best for the new year.

Scott MacKay, President and Founder

Curtis Brown, Principal

Mary Agnes Welch, Principal