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Majority Of Western Canadians Feel Federal Government Treats Them Unfairly: Angus Reid Institute Poll

Yet they differ on the best approach their province should take with the feds.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau participates in a roundtable discussion with Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale in Regina on Jan. 11, 2019.
Mark Taylor/CP
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau participates in a roundtable discussion with Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale in Regina on Jan. 11, 2019.

Roughly seven out of 10 Canadians living west of Ontario believe that their province is not being treated fairly by the federal government, a new poll suggests.

And according to data released Wednesday by the Angus Reid Institute, those who share that view also feel they have been getting less respect from Ottawa and the rest of the country in recent years.

The poll is part of a series exploring Western Canada's place in Confederation, including how the provinces of British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba relate to one another. With a federal election less than nine months away, the numbers suggest that Western Canada is united in its frustration with the feds.

Presented with the statement, "my province is treated fairly by the national government," 72 per cent of Western Canadians said they disagreed, compared to 49 per cent of Eastern Canadians.

Angus Reid Institute

Drilling down, the Angus Reid Institute found that 83 per cent of Albertans, 77 per cent of Saskatchewanians, 64 per cent of British Columbians, and 63 per cent of Manitobans disagree that they are treated fairly by Ottawa.

While more than half of respondents from Ontario said they agreed their province is getting fair treatment, 65 per cent of respondents from Atlantic Canada — where federal Liberals won every seat in the last election — also feel slighted.

Angus Reid Institute

Among those Western Canadians who said their region was getting the short shrift, the firm asked if they felt treatment from the rest of Canada — including Ottawa — has improved, worsened, or stayed the same over the past few years.

More than two-thirds said things have gotten either "a lot worse" or "a little worse," while just 12 per cent said things were "a little better." None said things were "a lot better," and 21 per cent said matters haven't changed.

However, more than 70 per cent of respondents from Quebec and Atlantic Canada also disagreed that their province is "respected by the rest of the country."

Western Canadians also differ on the best approach their province should take with Ottawa. Nearly seven-in-10 Albertans and 58 per cent of Saskatchewanians say their province should take a "tough" approach with the federal government.

Majorities in B.C. (63 per cent) and Manitoba (52 per cent) said they favoured a "firmer" approach that meant defending the province's interests, even if it means disagreement with the feds.

Angus Reid Institute

Eighty-four per cent of Albertans and 75 per cent of respondents from Saskatchewan also said the supposedly unfair treatment was a "major issue," compared to 54 per cent of British Columbians and 59 per cent of Manitobans who feel the same.

The poll did not point to specific reasons why Western Canadians might feel they aren't getting a fair shake, such as the federal response to the oil crisis that has rocked Alberta or ongoing debates about the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project and federal carbon pricing plan. Another poll the firm released this month suggested a slim majority of Canadians view the country's lack of an increased pipeline capacity as a "crisis."

But the numbers could highlight the work federal Liberals have cut out for them to keep the Western Canada seats they won in 2015 en route to a majority government. The party captured half of Manitoba's 14 seats in the last election, and in battleground B.C. Liberals currently boast 18 of the province's 40 seats.

Watch: Trudeau calls Alberta's low oil price a 'crisis'

It's a different story in Saskatchewan, where Liberals hold only one seat — the Regina-Wascana riding Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale has held for years. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has visited the province seven times in the last year, according to The Canadian Press, sparking chatter the party might believe it can do better in the Conservative stronghold. New Democrats currently hold two seats in Saskatchewan.

Liberals currently hold three seats in Alberta: one in Calgary, and two in Edmonton. Darshan Kang, who won Calgary Skyview for the Liberals in the last election, was later booted from caucus amid misconduct allegations.

Natural Resources Minister Amarjeet Sohi, who represents Edmonton Mill Woods, is the only Albertan in Trudeau's cabinet. HuffPost Canada reached out to Sohi's office for his response to the poll findings.

The Angus Reid Institute survey was conducted online between Dec. 21-Jan. 3 among a representative randomized sample of 4,024 Canadian adults who are members of the Angus Reid Forum. For comparison purposes only, the firm says, a similar poll would carry a margin of error of 2.5 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

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