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Wexit Sentiments Down Since Liberals Re-Elected: Poll

The survey was conducted before the COVID-19 pandemic hit.
Supporters during a rally for a Wexit rally in Calgary on Nov. 16, 2019.
Todd Korol / Reuters
Supporters during a rally for a Wexit rally in Calgary on Nov. 16, 2019.

Many feared a wave of western separatist sentiments would only grow following the 2019 federal election, when Justin Trudeau’s governing Liberals were shut out of Alberta and Saskatchewan entirely.

According to a new survey from the Environics Institute, however, that may not actually be the case.

The annual study, which gauges opinion on everything from the economy to climate change, found that significantly fewer people in the western provinces — particularly Alberta and Saskatchewan — felt alienated in the Canadian federation than a year ago.

On the question of whether or not the West gets so few benefits from confederation they should “go it alone,” only 43 per cent of Albertans agreed, compared to a historic high of 56 per cent in 2019.

Environics Institute

Attitudes toward “going it alone” similarly declined 41 per cent in Saskatchewan, down from 53 per cent last year. Drops in separtist sentiment were seen in Manitoba and B.C. as well.

“The 2020 survey suggests that, rather than continuing to grow, support for the West going it on its own actually decreased over the year,” the survey’s authors wrote.

Separatist sentiments in 2019 buoyed the rise of the “western exit,” or “Wexit,” movement, which advocated for partial or even full separation from Canadian federation. The day after the October federal election, hashtags like #albertaseparation and #wexit were trending on social media, and in ensuing weeks Wexit rallies in support of new separatist parties at the provincial and federal level drew hundreds of supporters across the prairies.

WATCH: Kenney rebukes would-be separatists. Story continues below.

“To Canadians in Alberta and Saskatchewan, know that you are an essential part of our great country,” Trudeau said in his victory speech following October’s election. “I’ve heard your frustration and I want to be there to support you. Let us all work hard to bring our country together.”

The 2020 report’s authors point out that Canada may not be as divided as it seems.

“While the 2020 survey confirms that there are many differences in opinion among Canadians in different parts of the country, it also shows that these are sometimes not as widespread as might be expected, and that they are not necessarily widening,” they wrote.

But regional divides still exist. While separatist sentiments are down from last year’s high, they’re still much higher than the historical average. And the survey found that Albertans were the most dissatisfied with how things were going in Canada (59 per cent), nearly double the 30 per cent of Quebeckers who feel dissatisfied.

The survey of 5,152 Canadians was conducted online and by phone between Jan. 13 and Feb. 20 — before the COVID-19 pandemic spurred a wave of federal support like the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB).

The “Confederation of Tomorrow” survey is conducted annually by the Environics Institute, and This year polled 5,152 Canadians over the phone and online. The study was conducted in partnership with the Institute for Research on Public Policy, the Canada West Foundation, the Centre D’Analyse Politique–Constitution et Fédéralisme, and the Brian Mulroney Institute of Government at Saint Francis Xavier University.

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