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A ‘Western Canada Party’ Would Find Strong Voter Support: Angus Reid Institute Poll

But they're not big on the whole separatism thing.
Calgary's downtown core is pictured with the Saddledome in foreground on Feb. 9, 2018.
The Canadian Press
Calgary's downtown core is pictured with the Saddledome in foreground on Feb. 9, 2018.

A political party exclusively focused on representing the interests of Western Canada on the federal level would find considerable support from voters in the region, a new poll suggests.

Thirty-five per cent of respondents from Alberta, B.C., Saskatchewan and Manitoba told the Angus Reid Institute they would back a hypothetical "Western Canada Party."

The poll, the firm's fourth and final survey on Western Canadians' politics and their region's position in Confederation, says that while provinces west of Ontario may differ from one another, they are glued together in a firm belief that their region is unique and getting the short end of the stick from the federal government.

Angus Reid Institute

Those two factors, the polling firm says, could explain why so many would be open to an option on the ballot box that's focused on Western Canada.

And in the eyes of 63 per cent of poll respondents, the number of westerners who are unhappy with Ottawa is only rising. Only four per cent said they think anger towards the feds is decreasing.

That fury is most pronounced in Alberta, where more than eight-in-10 said the number of western Canadians who are unsatisfied with Ottawa's approach is increasing.

ARI also compared its latest findings to a similar question on growing western anger it asked in a 1991 survey. It found that in B.C., Alberta and Saskatchewan, the percentage of respondents who felt more westerners were dissatisfied with Ottawa has only risen in the decades since, while it stayed the same in Manitoba.

Angus Reid Institute

Findings show 'openness' to Western-focused party

While no Western Canada-focused federal party exists, and it's not possible to predict how an actual party with a leader and platform would perform in an election, the firm said the findings point to an "openness" from residents to such a movement.

A "Western Canada Party," the institute said, would find support from demographics of all age groups and political leanings in the four provinces. It would lead or tie the three main federal parties in support in every western province except for Manitoba.

ARI said such a movement could draw inspiration from the Reform Party, which began as a vehicle to represent the region's interests that grew into a full-fledged federal party that became the Official Opposition after the 1997 general election.

The party would then help form the Canadian Alliance in a so-called "unite the right" movement to prevent vote splitting among conservative parties. That movement laid the foundation for the modern day Conservative Party of Canada.

The numbers should be no comfort to the federal Liberals, who have been facing a rising storm of disapproval from Western Canada borne out of their carbon pricing plan and handling of the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project.

Majority say Alberta separating is highly unlikely

But the poll didn't find much confidence in the idea of Alberta separating from Canada.

In the province itself, half of respondents said separation could happen or may very well happen, while 80 per cent of B.C. residents said Alberta independence would never happen or was highly unlikely. In Manitoba and Saskatchewan, that percentage drops to 71 per cent and 63 per cent, respectively.

Angus Reid Institute
Angus Reid Institute
Angus Reid Institute

ARI also surveyed eastern respondents on how they would want to see the federal government and the rest of the country respond to this growing anger in the West.

Thirty-six per cent said they would prefer to see a "soft approach" that includes maintaining a good relationship with Western Canada and avoiding conflict. Quebeckers were most in favour of this tactic.

An equal number said they want a "firmer" approach, which involves speaking up for the country even if it leads to disagreement. Ontario takes the lead here, with 39 per cent of the province's respondents backing this option.

Lastly, 28 per cent said they want a "tough" approach, which ARI identified as: "Stand firm and do what it takes to defend our interests." Atlantic Canada was the most in favour of this method, with 35 per cent of respondents saying this was the preferred approach.

The Angus Reid Institute's survey was conducted online between Dec. 21, 2018 and Jan. 3, 2019 among a representative randomized sample of 4,024 Canadian adults. The polling firm says that, for comparison purposes only, a similar poll with this sample frame would carry a margin of error of plus or minus 2.5 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

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