Roughly three-quarters of Albertans believe the federal government is ignoring issues important to them, according to the results of a new poll.
A report released on Friday by the Angus Reid Institute (ARI) indicated 73 per cent of Albertans surveyed feel disillusioned with the federal government.
The report also found the majority of Albertans believe the electoral system is weakening. Roughly 67 per cent of Albertans surveyed believe the equal application of the rule of law is waning, and 58 per cent believe elections aren’t as free and fair as they used to be.
Albertans are also more likely to feel that the current government system is failing: roughly 61 per cent of Albertans surveyed disagree with the notion that Canada’s system of government works.
The findings reflect a national trend of disengagement and frustration with the state of Canadian democracy. The ARI found Canadians feel that partisanship and politics may be preventing co-operation between political parties. This sentiment is highest in the conservative core of the country which includes Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba.
“People often talk about political division. It is often manifested as regional division,” ARI executive director Shachi Kurl said on The Shaye Ganam Show on Friday morning.
“There’s a significant amount of disengagement. Not surprisingly, it’s highest in Alberta and Saskatchewan.”
The report comes against the backdrop of the Coutts, Alta., border-crossing protest, which is now entering its seventh day. The protest against COVID-19 health measures has elicited varying reactions from politicians on both sides of the Alberta legislature.
Premier Jason Kenney previously slammed Prime Minister Justin Trudeau for “divisive comments” over the trucker convoy, saying the protesters are entitled to express their opinions safely and lawfully.
Meanwhile, Alberta NDP Opposition Leader Rachel Notley condemned the protest in a statement on Tuesday, calling demonstrators at the border crossing a “fringe group” that has taken the Coutts border crossing hostage.
Lori Williams, an associate professor at Mount Royal University’s Faculty of Political Science, said the findings from the report aren’t particularly surprising especially during this time. She said more and more Albertans are disillusioned with the provincial government because of the lack of compromise between the UCP and the NDP.
“A lot of the people who could try to moderate or reach across these divisions are choosing increasingly to rev up the hostility to their own advantage. We’re seeing that happening on both sides,” Williams said.
The polarization of the protests is also fuelling and incentivizing protesters to continue, Williams said. She pointed to Kenney’s decision to lift the restrictions exemption program (REP) by the end of February as an example.
“This is going to alienate him from… (many) Albertan by basing his policy on protesters and not on health-care experts,” William said.
“He doesn’t want this protest underway when the leadership race comes up. He wants this in his rear-view mirror.”
The divide may also pose a challenge to any politician who tries to bridge that gap, but Williams said this is a difficult problem to solve.
“It’s very difficult to keep anger and frustration under control,” she said. “On the other hand, when cooler heads and voices speak, they don’t get the same kind of attention. There isn’t any incentive to be more statesmanlike.
“Democracy requires compromise. It requires being willing to respect the rights and freedoms of others and to respectfully disagree with one another. That’s not what’s happening.”
But Williams also said it is particularly difficult to reach a compromise now because of protest organizers’ alleged ties to white supremacy.
Anti-hate experts have previously alleged those with white nationalist and Islamophobic views don’t just represent the fringes of the anti-public health measures movement but are also among the organizers.
Confederate flags and swastikas were also flown at a trucker convoy in Ottawa over recent days.
Williams said she is concerned about far-right extremism becoming more and more prominent in Canada.
“I am concerned in the short term about this being a bit of a tinderbox,” she said.
“It could explode into violence and can be very difficult to manage and a lot of innocent people could be seriously hurt by this.”
The ARI is a national, not-for-profit, non-partisan public opinion research foundation established to provide publicly accessible and impartial statistical data on socio-economic issues in Canada.
METHODOLOGY: The Angus Reid Institute conducted an online survey from Jan. 27-31, 2022 among a representative randomized sample of 1,620 Canadian adults who are members of Angus Reid Forum. For comparison purposes only, a probability sample of this size would carry a margin of error of +/- 2.5 percentage points, 19 times out of 20. Discrepancies in or between totals are due to rounding. The survey was self-commissioned and paid for by ARI.