A majority of Canadians support a system that would require proof of vaccination to access some non-essential services, a new poll suggests as the fourth wave of the COVID-19 pandemic takes hold.
Seventy-six per cent of respondents to the survey by Leger and the Association for Canadian Studies said they would strongly or somewhat support a vaccine passport like the one Quebec is implementing.
Quebecers are even more supportive of the measure, with 81 per cent saying they’re in favour of the plan, which will apply in places like bars, concerts and festivals where there are lots of people in a confined space.
That’s despite a weekend rally that drew thousands of protesters to the streets of downtown Montreal, calling for Premier Francois Legault to reverse his decision and hold a debate on the matter.
The questions around vaccine passports come as the poll suggests optimism over the pandemic is waning, said Andrew Enns, executive vice-president of Leger.
“I look at these numbers, and I get the feeling Canadians are starting to feel a little bit uncertain in terms of where the pandemic is heading,” he said, pointing to tracking the Leger has done of people who believe the worst of the pandemic is over.
“That number has been dropping now for the better part of a month.”
In the latest round of data, 44 per cent of people said they felt the worst of the pandemic had already past. That’s down from a high of roughly 70 per cent in late June.
Enns attributed that to the spread of the Delta variant of COVID-19, which is fuelling the fourth wave of the pandemic.
Canada’s top public health doctor has warned the newest wave is well underway, with nearly 20,800 active cases of the virus as of Thursday — more than double what they were two weeks earlier.
Ninety per cent of COVID-19 diagnoses since the beginning of the vaccination campaign have been in people who were not fully vaccinated, according to data from the Public Health Agency of Canada.
Provincial data tracking shows nearly 83 per cent of Canadians have at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, and almost 74 per cent are fully vaccinated.
The Leger survey also sheds some light on vaccination trends.
It found that 18 per cent of respondents who had received a dose of COVID-19 vaccine had taken doses from two different brands.
Of those, 58 per cent had one dose of the Oxford-AstraZeneca shot, and said they would be open to taking a third dose as a booster if scientific evidence suggests it will provide better protection.
Another seven per cent who had one dose of AstraZeneca said they would not take a third dose of vaccine.
The other 35 per cent of respondents who mixed doses had not taken AstraZeneca, so the question didn’t apply to them.
Meanwhile, nine per cent of respondents to the Leger poll said they are unvaccinated and don’t plan on taking the shot, while five per cent said they have not been vaccinated yet, but do ultimately plan on it.
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Tiny wines find home in B.C.’s market, as Canadians consider reducing consumption
VANCOUVER — Wine lovers have growing options on the shelf to enjoy their favourite beverage as producers in B.C. offer smaller container sizes.
Multiple British Columbia wineries over the last several years have begun offering their product in smaller, single-serve cans and bottles.
Along with making wine more attractive to those looking to toss some in a backpack or sip on the golf course, the petite containers leave wineries with options for a potential shift in mindset as Canadians discuss the health benefits of reducing alcohol consumption.
Vancouver-based wine consultant Kurtis Kolt said he’s watched the segment of the wine industry offering smaller bottles and cans “explode” over the last several years, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic when people were meeting outdoors in parks and beaches and looking for something more portable to take with them.
“You’re not taking a hit on quality, you know? In fact, if someone is only going to be having a glass or two, you’re cracking a can and it’s completely fresh, guaranteed,” he said.
It’s also an advantage for people who want to drink less, he said.
“It’s much less of a commitment to crack open a can or a small bottle or a smaller vessel than it is to open a bottle,” he said.
“Then you have to decide how quickly you’re going to go through it or end up dumping some out if you don’t finish it.”
Last month, the Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction released a report funded by Health Canada saying no amount of alcohol is safe and those who consume up to two standard drinks per week face a low health risk.
That’s a significant change from the centre’s 2011 advice that said having 15 drinks per week for men and 10 drinks per week for women was low risk.
Health Canada has said it is reviewing the report.
Charlie Baessler, the managing partner at Corcelettes Estate Winery in the southern Interior, said his winery’s Santé en Cannette sparkling wine in a can was released in 2020 as a reduced alcohol, reduced sugar, low-calorie option.
“We’ve kind of gone above and beyond to attract a bit of a younger, millennial-type market segment with a fun design concept of the can and sparkling, low alcohol — all these things that have been recently a big item on the news,” he said.
Santé en Cannette is a nine per cent wine and reducing the alcohol was a way to reduce its calories, he said. The can also makes it attractive for events like a picnic or golf, is recyclable, and makes it easier for restaurants that might want to offer sparkling wine by the glass without opening an entire bottle.
At the same time, the lower alcohol content makes it an option for people who might want a glass of wine without feeling the same effect that comes from a higher alcohol content, he said.
“So the health is clearly one incentive, but I think more importantly, so was being able to enjoy a locally made product of B.C. from a boutique winery, dare I say, with a mimosa at 11 o’clock and not ruin your day,” he said.
Baessler said the winery has doubled production since the product was first released to about 30,000 cans a year, which they expect to match this year.
He said there’s naturally a market for the product but he doesn’t expect it to compete with the higher-alcohol wine.
“So this isn’t our Holy Grail. This is something that we do for fun and we’ll never compete, or never distract, from what is our core line of riper, higher-alcohol wine,” he said.
Jeff Guignard, executive director of B.C.’s Alliance of Beverage Licensees, which represents bars, pubs and private liquor stores, said the industry has seen a shift in consumers wanting options that are more convenient.
“It’s not a massive change in consumer behaviour but it is a definitely a noticeable one, which is why you see big companies responding to it,” he said.
Guignard said the latest CCSA report is creating an increased awareness and desire to become educated about responsible consumption choices, which is a good thing, but he adds it’s important for people to look at the relative risk of what they’re doing.
“If you’re eating fast food three meals a day, I don’t think having a beer or not is going to be the single most important determinant of your health,” he said.
“But from a consumer perspective, as consumer preferences change, of course beverage manufacturers respond with different packaging or different products, the same way you’ve seen in the last five years, a large number of low-alcohol or no-alcohol beverages being introduced to the market.”
While he won’t predict how much the market share could grow, Guignard said non-alcoholic beverages and low-alcoholic beverages will continue to be a significant piece of the market.
“I don’t know if it’s reached its peak or if it will grow. I just expect it to be part of the market for now on.”
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 5, 2023.
Ashley Joannou, The Canadian Press
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