It’s been a few weeks now since Canadians sent a clear signal to Ottawa and elected a new majority Liberal government. In the weeks since, we have reflected on some of the topical ballot-box issues—among them cyber security and defence priorities. We knew the new government would put thought into the outward projection of Canadian defence and security, but what about looking at these issues through a domestic lens?

Our Research team at H+K Canada conducts an omnibus survey that reaches out to 1,000 Canadian adults twice a month, every month. The sample is drawn from our H+K Perspectives Panel of 20,000+ people.

Early in October, we spoke to Canadians and asked them to tell us their opinions about cyber security and defence priorities. And here’s what we heard:

First off, cyber security. Canadians, in general, are apprehensive about data security and personal privacy, with only four in 10 Canadians believing that their personal and financial information is secure from attack, damage or unauthorized access. This provides a strong signal that the new government will want to think about how to better protect Canadians.

And you know what? These issues are keeping Canadians up at night.

Most Canadians (about six in 10) actively worry that their banking or credit card information could fall into the wrong hands, through hacking, some other type of cyber-attack or “insider” theft. A similar proportion worries about identity theft.

But is it the government’s job alone to address these issues? No.

In fact, when it comes to safeguarding personal and financial information and preventing cyber-attacks, Canadians assign the most responsibility to businesses that handle information (86 per cent), followed by governments (81 per cent), Internet providers (76 per cent) and ultimately individuals themselves (71 per cent).

As the majority of Canadians surveyed actively worry about their own information, a similar proportion feel that major institutions are, in fact, well-protected. About six in 10 Canadians feel that banks, Canadian high-tech companies, the Canadian military and federal departments, such as Revenue Canada, are well-protected from cyber-attacks.

Next up, defence priorities. While it’s true that the majority of Canadians believe that Canadian government departments are well-equipped to deal with cyber issues, fewer believe that the Armed Forces are able to respond to certain domestic issues.

Canadians are certainly concerned with the “home game.” The top priority Canadians assigned for Canada’s military is increasing search and rescue capabilities (58 per cent). This priority area eclipsed others such as increasingly support of international missions, both non-combat roles (27 per cent) and combat roles (17 per cent).

Looking at “home game” issues in more depth, we learned that Canadians assigned the highest priority to improving the military’s natural disaster and emergency response capabilities (81 per cent), followed by improving overall search and rescue capabilities (75 per cent) and improving coastal and Arctic surveillance capabilities.

Given the years of media coverage it’s received, the general public has an informed opinion about defence procurement—despite it formerly being an issue usually considered in the abstract. In a trade-off between proceeding with current procurement plans for military search and rescue aircraft or delaying the process to review defence priorities, the vast majority (eight in 10) favours proceeding.

Canadians voted for change, and part of that change appears to be more support for cyber security and defence priorities at home. As we watch the government deliberate the future of Bill C-51, fighter jets, or Canada’s role in Iraq, we suspect they won’t lose sight of the people at home and their perspective and perception of these important issues.

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