Alberta Premier Jason Kenney’s push for more provincial autonomy is finding a more receptive audience in Quebec than in his own Prairie region, a new poll suggests.
Mr. Kenney’s United Conservative government established a “Fair Deal” panel in the fall to examine ways the province could be more autonomous from the federal government.
Nanos Research tested two of the proposals for The Globe and Mail. Nanos surveyed 1,010 Canadian adults across the country through a phone and online poll from Dec. 22 to 29. The results are considered accurate within 3.1 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.
On the question of whether respondents were in favour of the Alberta government setting up its own pension plan and withdrawing from the Canada Pension Plan, 52 per cent said they opposed or somewhat opposed it, while 33 per cent said they supported or somewhat supported it. Fifteen per cent said they were unsure.
On the question of whether respondents were in favour of the Alberta government replacing the Royal Canadian Mounted Police with a provincial police force, 39 per cent said they opposed or somewhat opposed it, while 46 per cent said they supported or somewhat supported it. Sixteen per cent said they were unsure.
In both cases, support was much higher in Quebec than in the Prairies (a polling region that includes residents of Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba). For example, on the police question, 57 per cent of Quebeckers were in favour, while only 39 per cent of Prairie residents were. Those levels of support are outside the poll’s margins of error for those regions.
One thing that may be in Quebeckers’ favour is familiarity, as the province already has its own pension plan and police force. (Ontario also has a provincial police, though it is part of the Canada Pension Plan.)
Nik Nanos, chief data scientist at Nanos Research, said the big takeaway is that withdrawing from federal programs may not be an ideal solution for the alienation being expressed by some Western premiers, such as Mr. Kenney and Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe. Those leaders say their provinces have not been given enough help from the federal government to deal with issues such as unemployment caused by a troubled oil industry.
“The poll does not diminish any of the issues [the premiers] have, related to how the federation works and whether [Ottawa] can do a better job,” Mr. Nanos said. "But what the poll does suggest is there’s not a lot of appetite, even in the Prairie provinces, for some of the more aggressive measures that they’re speculating on.”
Mr. Kenney appointed his fair-deal panel in the fall to examine a list of ideas designed to give Alberta more autonomy. Those proposals include leaving the Canadian Pension Plan in favour of creating a provincial plan; setting up a provincial revenue agency; establishing a provincial police force; taking a more active role in provincial affairs; and creating a provincial firearms officer.
The panel, whose members include former Reform Party leader Preston Manning and Stephen Lougheed, the son of former premier Peter Lougheed, has been holding town hall-style events around the province and will report back in the spring. The government said it would hold a provincial referendum before moving forward with any of the proposals being considered.
Alberta threatened to leave the CPP in the late 1990s but a government report recommended against the idea and the province ultimately backed down after securing changes from Ottawa.