On average, 28 per cent of Canadian respondents said they were cutting down on essential spending, but that number rises to 38 per cent in Alberta.
Greg Anderson, a political science professor at the University of Alberta, said it’s easy to see why Albertans took a turn for the frugal in 2019.
“Albertan consumers are not feeling all that confident nor flush with cash — any they do have is being held for a rainy day many probably think is here right now,” Anderson said.
The oil-rich province has been undergoing its worst financial crisis in decades. In November, Alberta showed a loss of 18,000 jobs, increasing its unemployment rate by 0.5 percentage points to 7.2 per cent — up 0.3 percentage points from 2018.
More job losses are expected before the year is up. According to PetroLMI, direct employment in Canada’s oil and gas sector is expected to fall by more than 12,000 jobs this year — a decline of 23 per cent from 2014.
Alberta is still coming off of a recession that began in 2014 when an overabundance of supply caused the worldwide price of oil to plummet. The province’s recession, which ended in 2016, led to the loss of more than 100,000 jobs and Alberta has never fully recovered.
Increasing political frustrations, an uptick in separatist sentiments and ongoing pipeline delays aren’t helping, Anderson said.
In the poll, respondents were asked about how happy they were in five categories: personal life, romance, finance, health and social life. Albertan respondents were only marginally less happy than other Canadians in all categories.
“If you look at the data and you look at Albertans versus the rest of Canada, they’re relatively the same levels of happiness as other Canadians, relatively the same level of health as other Canadians,” said Gregory Jack, Ipsos vice-president of public affairs.
“When you ask them about their personal financial situation, they’re significantly less optimistic than the rest of Canada.”
Those aged 55 and over have the most to smile about, at least when it comes to their financial situation.
A whopping 73 per cent of Canadian respondents aged 55 and older said they were unworried about finances — a higher percentage than the younger groups, including those aged 18-34 (59 per cent) and 35-54 (62 per cent).
At a regional level, the national average was 65 per cent, and nearly all provinces reported feeling better about their finances than Albertan respondents (51 per cent).
Albertans were also more likely than almost any other Canadians to rate their financial situation as “bad” – 49 per cent of Albertans described their finances did so, some 14 points higher than the national average.
The poll, which saw Ipsos interview a sample of 1,002 Canadians aged 18 years and over from Dec. 3 to 5, found Albertans are more likely to have cut spending on essentials, while those in Saskatchewan and Manitoba are more likely to have lost their job or sold off possessions to pay the bills.
According to the poll, employment has been unstable for some: nearly one in 10 Albertans have lost their job, though more have found a new one or taken on a second or third job.
Anderson echoed the poll’s findings, also pointing to “ensuing political frustrations” and western alienation — a term often used to describe the feeling among those in Canada’s western provinces that the rest of the country looks down on them, ignores them and does not have their best interest in mind.
“Even marginal improvements from pipes are still some distance from coming to fruition,” said Anderson, adding there are “no expectations of improvement on any of these fronts in the short or medium term.”
Looking at socio-political findings, six out of 10 Canadians agreed that the country is more divided than ever, a number that has remained statistically unchanged since the Oct. 21 federal election. This feeling is stronger in Alberta than in any other province, with 78 per cent agreeing with the statement.
During the election, the Conservatives swept Alberta and Saskatchewan, claiming all but one seat out of the 48 ridings in both provinces.
It exposed a deep well of resentment, later reiterated in the Ipsos poll.
Albertans were most likely to disagree that the federal government elected in October would do a good job uniting the country. While just under half of Canadians nationwide agree Alberta and Saskatchewan have good reason to be mad about how they are treated by the federal government, this view is held by an overwhelming majority of those in those two provinces.
This Ipsos poll on behalf of Global News was an online survey of 1,002 Canadians conducted between Dec. 3-5, 2019. The results were weighted to better reflect the composition of the adult Canadian population, according to census data. The precision of Ipsos online polls is measured using a credibility interval. In this case, the poll is considered accurate to within plus or minus 3.5 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.