Most Al­ber­tans think coun­try in midst of unity cri­sis

Vancouver Sun - - CANADA - sx­thom­[email protected]­ Twit­­ar­tx­thom­son STU­ART THOM­SON

Nearly 80 per cent of res­i­dents in Al­berta and Saskatchew­an think the fed­eral gov­ern­ment has lost touch with av­er­age people in the two prov­inces, says a new poll com­mis­sioned by the com­mu­ni­ca­tions firm Nav­i­ga­tor.

Nearly two-thirds of people in Al­berta and Saskatchew­an think the coun­try is in the midst of a na­tional unity cri­sis, along with a ra­zor-thin ma­jor­ity of 51 per cent of Cana­di­ans across the coun­try.

The num­bers are low­est in Man­i­toba, where only 41 per cent of people think the coun­try is ex­pe­ri­enc­ing a na­tional unity cri­sis and the At­lantic prov­inces, where 44 per cent agree.

Where the threat to unity orig­i­nates is a mat­ter of con­tention.

One-third of Cana­di­ans think Al­berta is the great­est threat to na­tional unity, while 50 per cent say it is Que­bec. Twenty-three per cent of Cana­di­ans ex­pect that Que­bec will sep­a­rate in the next decade, while 19 per cent of Cana­di­ans think Al­berta will se­cede in that time.

The most trou­ble­some num­bers for Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau’s gov­ern­ment may be that in both Al­berta and Saskatchew­an 78 per cent be­lieve that Ot­tawa has “lost touch with av­er­age people” from the two prov­inces.

In the fall elec­tion that saw Trudeau’s gov­ern­ment knocked down to a mi­nor­ity, the Lib­er­als were shut out in Al­berta and Saskatchew­an and there has been a febrile mood in the two prov­inces as the oil and gas in­dus­tries ex­pe­ri­ence a slump.

The Al­berta gov­ern­ment has re­peat­edly warned that it sees the up­com­ing fed­eral cab­i­net de­ci­sion on whether to ap­prove the pro­posed $20-bil­lion Fron­tier oil­sands mine as a ref­er­en­dum on the gov­ern­ment’s con­cern about the West.

Premier Ja­son Ken­ney re­cently wrote a let­ter to Trudeau warn­ing that a re­jec­tion of the project could fur­ther fuel Western alien­ation.

A large chunk of Cana­di­ans be­lieve Al­berta and Saskatchew­an have a “le­git­i­mate rea­son to want to sep­a­rate from the rest of Canada,” with 38 per cent of Cana­di­ans agree­ing with that and 62 per cent of Al­ber­tans agree­ing, ac­cord­ing to the Nav­i­ga­tor sur­vey.

The poll also shows some yawn­ing chasms in how Cana­di­ans see en­vi­ron­men­tal and re­source de­vel­op­ment is­sues in the coun­try.

Sev­enty-four per cent of Al­ber­tans be­lieve that more pipe­lines should be built, while only 25 per cent of Que­be­cers agree. This il­lus­trates the tightrope that Trudeau has to walk weigh­ing the ap­proval of the Fron­tier mine and regional ten­sions in the coun­try. The Lib­er­als see Que­bec as one likely path back to a ma­jor­ity gov­ern­ment and the Fron­tier project would be as un­pop­u­lar there as a re­jec­tion would be in Al­berta.

In Al­berta, 78 per cent of people be­lieve the most re­cent Cana­dian elec­tion has in­creased sep­a­ratist sen­ti­ment, while only 41 per cent of Que­be­cers agree with that state­ment.

Al­ber­tans are clearly pay­ing at­ten­tion the sim­mer­ing sep­a­ratist is­sue in their prov­ince. The poll found that 74 per cent of Al­ber­tans had heard of the “Wexit” move­ment and that num­ber rose to 86 per cent when the term was ex­plained to the re­spon­dent. In Que­bec, about one-third of people hard heard of the fledg­ling Al­berta sep­a­ra­tion move­ment, while more than half said they were aware of it when the per­son de­fined the term “Wexit.”

The poll was com­mis­sion by the com­mu­ni­ca­tions and strat­egy firm Nav­i­ga­tor from Jan. 3 to 10 and had a sam­ple size of 2,590 re­spon­dents. The poll has a mar­gin of er­ror of 1.9 per cent, 19 times out of 20.

Ja­son Ken­ney

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