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Separatist sentiment in Alberta, Saskatchewan at ‘historic’ highs: Ipsos poll

WATCH: 59 per cent say Canada is more divided, says latest Ipsos poll

The uneasy feeling that the country is more divided now is simmering across Canada, especially in Alberta and Saskatchewan, according to a new Ipsos poll.

In fact, Ipsos senior vice-president Kyle Braid says the polling figures out of Alberta and Saskatchewan are “historic.”

READ MORE: This way to ‘Wexit’: Navigating Alberta’s theoretical secession

“This is really a story of two oil provinces that feel that they made a substantial contribution to the Canadian economy during the boom years and now feel when things are not going as well, they feel isolated, underappreciated, misunderstood by the rest of the country,” he said. 

Political experts discuss poll results on western separation
Political experts discuss poll results on western separation

Conducted exclusively for Global News, the poll surveyed 1,516 voting-age Canadians online between Oct. 24 and Nov. 1, 2019.

The poll asked respondents to agree or disagree to varying degrees with statements such as “Canada is more divided than ever,” “my province would be better off if it separated from Canada,” and “I think the views of western Canadians are adequately represented in Ottawa.”

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Braid said Ipsos also posed statements about positive emotions in the poll, but those didn’t resonate as much.

Ipsos poll shows separatist sentiments most pronounced in Alberta and Saskatchewan
Ipsos poll shows separatist sentiments most pronounced in Alberta and Saskatchewan

READ MORE: Canada election 2019: Results from the federal election

‘More divided’

Six in 10 respondents (59 per cent) from across Canada agreed with the statement that the country is “more divided than ever” — 20 per cent saying they strongly agreed, while 39 per cent somewhat agreed.

This sentiment was particularly strong in Alberta (79 per cent) and Saskatchewan (77 per cent). In Atlantic Canada, close to seven in 10 (66 per cent) felt this way, while responses from Manitoba (58 per cent) and B.C. (54 per cent) lined up with Ontario (56 per cent) and Quebec (54 per cent) as opposed to the other western provinces.

“The most striking thing is that the entire country thinks that Canada’s more divided than ever,” Braid said.

“I mean, they all saw on election night a government elected with barely one-third of the votes.”

Close to a third (31 per cent) nationwide indicated they disagreed with the feeling that Canada is more split than ever, with only 9 per cent strongly feeling that way.

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The poll also found increasing support for separation from Canada in Alberta and Saskatchewan, with 33 per cent of Alberta respondents indicating their province would be better off splitting from the rest of the country. That figure was only slightly lower in Saskatchewan, where 27 per cent of respondents indicated they felt this way.

Can Wexit actually happen?
Can Wexit actually happen?

Wexit

The idea of western Canada splitting from the rest of the country raised its head after last month’s federal election, with the word “Wexit” — which sounds like Brexit, popularly used to denote the U.K.’s long-delayed but still planned departure from the European Union — trending online.

READ MORE: 11 Canadian senators form new group to represent regional interests

The federal election saw the Liberals secure enough seats for a minority government — but with no Liberal MPs in the provinces of Alberta and Saskatchewan and a mere four in Manitoba.

Ipsos noted that agreement with the sentiment that Alberta would be better off separated from Canada has increased by eight points since the question was last posed in a September 2018 poll. The same statement in a 2001 poll garnered 19 per cent agreement.

Saskatchewan saw a similar rise in separatist sentiment measured by Ipsos polls over the years. In 2001, only 13 per cent of respondents in Saskatchewan felt the province would be better off separated, and in 2018 that figure only rose to 18 per cent.

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Liberal victory renews separatist talk in Western Canada
Liberal victory renews separatist talk in Western Canada

“There’s actually more support for separation in Alberta than there is in Quebec at the moment,” Braid said.

The most recent Ipsos poll shows that Quebec is the only province where separatist sentiment matches Alberta and Saskatchewan, at 26 per cent. The same statement did not garner much agreement in Ontario (8 per cent), Atlantic Canada (9 per cent), B.C. (13 per cent), or Manitoba (11 per cent).

As negative as the polling numbers out of Alberta and Saskatchewan may seem, Braid pointed out that majorities in both provinces did not signal separatist sentiment.

LISTEN: Ipsos senior VP Kyle Braid joins Danielle Smith to discuss the poll showing separatist sentiment in Alberta and Saskatchewan

“We need to remember still that two-thirds of Albertans and three-quarters of Saskatchewan residents are not in the separation camp,” he said. “They may be disappointed. They may be worried, but they are nowhere near talking about separation yet.

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“The challenge for the federal government and others is to start dealing with the issues that Alberta and Saskatchewan find as important to make sure that disappointment among the overall population doesn’t turn into anger.”

READ MORE: Landlocked oil problem would not be solved by Wexit: expert

Sentiment breakdown

Almost seven in 10 respondents in Alberta (69 per cent) and Saskatchewan (67 per cent) agreed with the statement that the results of the Oct. 21 election left them feeling “disappointed,” while half of respondents in both provinces indicated the election left them “angry.”

Similar numbers in Alberta (65 per cent) and Saskatchewan (62 per cent) also felt that their province “does not get its fair share from Confederation.” In Atlantic Canada, more than half (54 per cent) indicated the same.

In contrast, only 20 per cent in Ontario, 34 per cent in Quebec, 36 per cent in B.C., and 42 per cent in Manitoba agreed with that statement.

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“What we see is not so much a story of increased Western alienation, but of Alberta and Saskatchewan alienation,” Braid said.

The poll also examined province-by-province attachment to Canada, finding that overall, four in 10 Canadians feel more attached to their province than to the country.

More than half of respondents in Quebec (55 per cent), Atlantic Canada (53 per cent), and Alberta (52 per cent) indicated feeling this way, while close to half felt the same in Saskatchewan (48 per cent) and B.C. (45 per cent). Close to a third (30 per cent) of Ontario and Manitoba (32 per cent) respondents felt more attached to Ontario than Canada.

The full data for this poll can be found here.

Exclusive Global News Ipsos polls are protected by copyright. The information and/or data may only be rebroadcast or republished with full and proper credit and attribution to “Global News Ipsos.” This poll was conducted between Oct. 24 and Nov. 1, 2019, with a sample of 1,516 Canadians from Ipsos’ online panel. The precision of Ipsos online polls is measured using a credibility interval. This poll is accurate to within +/ – 2.0 percentage points, 19 times out of 20, had all Canadian adults been polled.