How satisfied are you with things in Canada? Poll reveals a chasm between Alberta, Quebec


Un pays divisé sur une fracture régionale Est-Ouest

How satisfied you are with the way things are going in Canada depends very much on where you are living, reveals a new poll.

While a majority of Canadians are satisfied with the direction of the country, there is a wildly different sentiment in the Prairies, where people are feeling widespread dismay at the state of affairs, a new survey from the Angus Reid Institute says.

“The prospect of a new year is bringing new concerns and anxieties for some Canadians and a bullish outlook for others. How they feel has largely to do with where they live,” says the institute in a news release headlined “Two Canadas?”

The poll shows that more than 60 per cent of Canadians living in central Canada, the Atlantic Provinces and British Columbia are happy with the ways things are going in the country. In Alberta and Saskatchewan, the numbers are almost reversed, with only 29 per cent of Albertans and 39 per cent of people in Saskatchewan satisfied with the direction Canada is taking.

Those numbers represent steep declines from four years ago. In Alberta, the number of people happy with the direction of the country has plummeted from 53 per cent in 2016 to 29 per cent today. In Saskatchewan, the number has dropped 18 percentage points from 57 to 39 per cent.

About 54 per cent of Manitobans are satisfied with the direction of the country this year, which is a decline of 14 percentage points from 2016.

The regional disparity in the country is almost matched by a big difference in how men and women feel about the direction of the country. Across Canada, 46 per cent of men say they are unhappy with the way things are going compared to about 32 per cent of women. There is relatively little difference among age groups.

The deep resentment in Alberta is a consequence of the recent economic downturn and the lengthy and fractious process of getting the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion built. The project would carry more Albertan oil to the West Coast, where it may be able to command a better price.

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney recently unveiled a “fair deal panel,” which is examining the various ways Albertans think Confederation is unbalanced against them.

The panel’s website says it will look for ways to get a “bigger voice within the federation, increase our power over areas of provincial jurisdiction, and advance our vital economic interests, such as building energy pipelines.”

But the poll also found that people across the country are far more worried about the future of their province. Asked if they are optimistic or pessimistic about the future of their province, respondents across the country are almost evenly divided (53 per cent optimistic versus 47 per cent pessimistic).

The biggest divide is between Alberta and Quebec. Seventy-seven per cent of people in Alberta feel pessimistic whereas 73 per cent of people in Quebec feel optimistic. Saskatchewan and the Atlantic also saw a slim majority of people feeling pessimistic.

One bright spot in the survey results is that Canadians are much more optimistic about their own lives than they are about the country as a whole. Seventy-five per cent of Canadians say they are optimistic about their own future. In Alberta, where fewer than 30 per cent of respondents are optimistic about the country, 58 per cent are still optimistic about their own situation. And the most rose-coloured Canadians are in Quebec, where 87 per cent of people are optimistic about their own future.

A person’s optimism about their own situation tends to rise with income levels, but a large majority of households with the lowest income are still optimistic. Sixty-eight per cent of Canadians making less than $25,000 per year are optimistic, compared to more than 80 per cent of Canadians who are making more than $100,000 per year.

One thing that people of all ages seem to agree on: young people should be pessimistic about the future. Sixty-one per cent of respondents said they were anxious about the future of the next generation — a five percentage point increase from 2016 — and that response tracks roughly the same among all age groups.

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