Nearly half of Canadians see a conflict between Alberta and the rest of the country — whether real or perceived — as cause for concern.
But a survey trying to decipher Canadians' perception of the oil province also shows that a lot of the negative sentiments people outside the province may have towards Alberta may be rooted in some healthy envy, said the survey's author and Abacus Data CEO David Coletto.
The Abacus poll found that 45 per cent of respondents viewed the tension between Alberta and the rest of the country as very or somewhat serious.
But by comparison, when the same question was posed about Quebec, the poll numbers take a more drastic turn, with 80 per cent of respondents agreeing the conflict between Quebec and the rest of Canada is very or somewhat serious.
“While many consider (the) conflict between Alberta and the rest of Canada as serious, the level of concern is still nowhere near that of issues around Quebec,” Coletto said.
“A large majority of Canadians across the country, including in Quebec, believe that the Quebec question will be the greater problem for Canadian national unity over the next 20 years than conflict between eastern and western Canada,”
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In trying to gauge how the rest of Canada feels about Alberta, the survey asked respondents their opinions about comments made by Justin Trudeau two years ago in which he said, “Canada isn’t looking good because it’s Albertans who are controlling our community and social-democratic agenda. It’s not working.”
According to the survey, 29 per cent of Canadians either strongly or somewhat agreed with the comment, while 50 per cent strongly or somewhat disagreed. Twenty per cent of respondents said they were unsure.
Nationally, 54 per cent said they had a favourable impression of Alberta while only 16 per cent said they had an unfavourable impression and 30 per cent were neutral towards the province.
For context, Abacus Data points to a previous survey, in which it found Newfoundland and Labrador had a 62 per cent favourable and four per cent unfavourable rating.
But more pointed questions start to paint an envious picture, says Coletto.
When asked if jealousy of Alberta’s natural resources may be driving some of the negative sentiment towards the province, 50 per cent agreed with the statement, while 38 per cent disagreed.
But in the end, 63 per cent of respondents agreed that Canadians from all provinces benefit from Alberta’s oil and gas industry, while 27 per cent disagreed.
“Most Canadians have a favourable impression of Alberta and the oil and gas industry, the Rocky Mountains, and Alberta beef are key components of its image for Canadians across the country,” said Coletto.
“And while most Canadians agree that all Canadians benefit from Alberta’s oil and gas industry, many also agree that Canadians outside of Alberta are jealous of the province’s natural resources.
“This regional jealousy is fueling conflict between (Canada’s) wealthiest province and its neighbours but for most Canadians, national unity battles still centre on the role of Quebec in Canada.”
And when asked what words Canadians most associated with Alberta, the words most uttered by respondents were Money, Cold and Oil.