As Trudeau government faces competing regional and partisan priorities, Canadians weigh in on where to begin

As Trudeau government faces competing regional and partisan priorities, Canadians weigh in on where to begin

Majorities in every region other than Quebec say Alberta’s natural resource sector needs more help

November 19, 2019 – The resumption of parliament on December 5th represents a chance at a fresh start for the Trudeau government, but will his minority administration be able to address the priorities Canadians are identifying as most important to them?

A new study from the non-profit Angus Reid Institute suggests success will be challenging at best, given clashing regional and partisan concerns. In western provinces, a clear emphasis emerges on the TransMountain pipeline and a greater voice in Ottawa. For eastern provinces, emissions reduction and climate change policy are top of mind, alongside health care and tax cuts for low- and middle-income earners.

Despite this, more than half of Canadians look to a reopening of government business with optimism: six-in-ten say a minority mandate in the House of Commons will be a chance for parties to come together over shared priorities, while four-in-ten say that they expect more of a legislative logjam than a path to productivity.

So where can the Trudeau government find common ground? A plan to raise the income tax exemption to $15,000 for those earning under $147,000 per year is a start. That issue receives the most across-the-board support.

And as the Liberal government looks for opportunities to work with other parties on policy, it will need to overcome a widespread sense that Ottawa is disinterested in representing certain parts of the country. Ontario residents are more than twice as likely to say that they feel well-represented compared to those living in Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba.


More Key Findings:

  • A majority of residents in every region other than Quebec say that the federal government should do more to help Alberta’s natural resource industry. That said, few outside of CPC supporters consider the TransMountain pipeline expansion a top priority.
  • At least three-quarters of those who supported the Liberals, NDP, Green Party and Bloc Quebecois say that they feel this minority government is an opportunity for cooperation. Just one-quarter of CPC voters (27%) feel the same.
  • Aside from Quebec and Ontario, a majority of residents say that they feel the Liberal government under Justin Trudeau has done a poor job of representing their province’s interests thus far.


About ARI

The Angus Reid Institute (ARI) was founded in October 2014 by pollster and sociologist, Dr. Angus Reid. ARI is a national, not-for-profit, non-partisan public opinion research foundation established to advance education by commissioning, conducting and disseminating to the public accessible and impartial statistical data, research and policy analysis on economics, political science, philanthropy, public administration, domestic and international affairs and other socio-economic issues of importance to Canada and its world.



Part One: Canadians divided over promises and priorities

  • What the western provinces want

  • Eastern expectations

  • Common ground

  • Majorities everywhere outside Quebec say Alberta needs more help

Part Two: Ideological commonalities and conflicts

  • Tax cuts

  • Emissions reductions

  • Healthcare

  • Deficit

  • TransMountain pipeline expansion

Part Three: What’s Driving the Divisions

  • Who feels overlooked?

  • Agreement on alienation


Part One: Canadians divided over promises and priorities

Canadians’ agenda for the new Liberal minority government largely reflects the issues they identified as most important during the campaign – with a few notable exceptions.

Top issues throughout the campaign such as climate change, taxation and healthcare remain top priorities as one might expect. Post-election, however, there are two other issues that the government will need to contend with to please Canadians – western representation and the federal deficit.

Whether this transition to a Liberal minority is an opportunity or a challenge depends greatly on the commitment of the legislature and the politicking each party may engage in. That said, for most Canadians, this is seen as a chance for parties to work together to accomplish common goals. For those in Alberta, and the Prairies, however, the sense is that this arrangement will make it more difficult to make meaningful progress on important issues:

Notably, voters for the centre-left parties as well as the Bloc Quebecois see significantly more opportunity than Conservative supporters:

What the western provinces want

The sentiment among much of Western Canada that challenges lie ahead may be based on the sense that the issues they care most about are lower on the agenda, or not a priority. Consider the top issues for western Canadians, by a considerable margin – building the TransMountain pipeline expansion and ensuring that Western Canada has a voice in Ottawa.

Construction of the TransMountain pipeline project has begun at the terminals in British Columbia and pump stations in Alberta, but considerable doubt has pervaded Canadian opinion recently as to whether it will ultimately ever be finished.

Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe met with Prime Minister Trudeau after the election but stated that he was disappointed to hear “nothing new” from the Liberal leader about solving the issues facing western residents.

Eastern expectations

Priorities for the eastern portion of the country, Ontario, Quebec and Atlantic Canada, differ from those in the western provinces. The top priority is the upholding of a promise to cut low- and middle-income tax rates – that is, to increase the income tax exemption from approximately $12,000 to $15,000 for Canadians earning under $147,000 per year. The other two top priorities for the eastern provinces, meeting emission target reductions and improving healthcare access, do not appear in the west’s top five:

Majorities everywhere outside Quebec say Alberta needs more help

Division is certainly palpable in Canada, but there are ideas that most in the country can agree upon. The first is one that was discussed throughout the federal campaign and will be a source of tension between Alberta Premier Jason Kenney and Prime Minister Trudeau – helping Alberta’s natural resource industry.

The industry suffered when the price of crude oil dropped precipitously after 2014. While the price has recovered slightly in recent years, challenges have endured. The sense that Alberta needs help is widespread. In fact, a majority everywhere in the country aside from Quebec would like the federal government to do more to help Alberta’s resource industry get back on track.

Some of this may specifically include the construction of the TransMountain pipeline expansion, but the Angus Reid Institute has also noted significant support for investment in other areas of renewable resource production in the province.


Part Two: Ideological commonalities and conflicts

A minority government necessitates a certain level of cooperation in order to function. To push for a legislative agenda, the Liberals, with 157 seats, will need 13 votes from outside their party to pass a bill. Some issues share more common ground than others.

Tax cuts

The top issue overall for Canadians heading into the new legislative session is to pass tax cuts for lower- and middle-income Canadians. What is particularly notable about this priority is that it is chosen by at least one-in-four supporters of each party. No other issue enjoys this level of support across party lines.

Emissions reductions

The second highest issue on the priority list for Trudeau and the Liberals is ensuring that Canada meets its 2030 emission reductions targets signed onto during the Paris Accord. The difference here compared to the taxation issue is the massive priority for Liberal, NDP, Green Party and Bloc Quebecois supporters, compared to nearly zero support from those who supported the CPC. This issue is also much more salient among younger Canadians:


Increasing access to healthcare is consistently a top issue for Canadians, and as one may predict, crosses political lines more than many other contentious issues. That said, those who supported the Conservatives in the election would like the federal minority government to tackle other issues with more haste. For at least one-quarter across the rest of the country, healthcare access is top of mind heading into the new parliamentary sitting:


Conservatives would like to see the federal government focus on keeping the deficit under control, and they are joined by three-in-ten Bloc Quebecois supporters. Unfortunately for those voters, the Liberals plan to run deficits of $27.4 billion in 2020-21, and at least $21 billion for the three years following. Far fewer Liberal, NDP and Green Party voters say the government should focus efforts on reigning in the deficit.

TransMountain pipeline expansion

Perhaps the most divisive issue that the minority government will face is the completion of the TransMountain pipeline expansion. The Liberals plan to move forward with the project that they purchased in 2018 for more than $4 billion but have little enthusiasm within their own party ranks. Just 15 per cent of those who supported Trudeau and the LPC in October say this should be a top priority, compared to 52 per cent of CPC voters:

The table below shows all party priorities and highlights the top three for each group. One other issue is in the top three for two parties: improving the lives of First Nations in Canada, which is chosen by a large number of NDP and Green supporters:

Part Three: What’s Driving the Divisions

Who feels overlooked?

Nationally, half of Canadians feel their provinces’ interests are underpromoted in Ottawa. Yet on this subject as well, an East-West attitudinal divide persists.

In an election that saw the Conservatives win 47 out of the 48 seats in Alberta and Saskatchewan, however, it likely comes as no surprise that those provinces feel most disenfranchised with Trudeau’s Liberal government. Three-quarters of Albertans (77%), four-in-five Saskatchewan residents (80%) and seven-in-ten Manitoba residents (68%) say the federal government has done a ‘bad job’ promoting their province’s interests. They are joined by three-in-five coastal residents, both in B.C. (61%) and Atlantic Canada (57%).

Meanwhile, Ontario and Quebec are the only two regions that do not have a majority of residents saying the federal government has done a bad job promoting their province’s interests. Four-in-ten in both regions saying the opposite:

Related: Fractured federation: Which provinces believe they give & get more from Canada?

Who do Canadians think gets fair treatment?

Evidently, half of Canadians believe their province gets a raw deal from the federal government, but who do they feel is well represented? Canadians from each region of the country were asked for all regions other than their own, whether the federal government does a good job or bad job of representing their interests. Nearly two-thirds of Canadians feel that Quebec is fairly treated, while 56 per cent say this of Ontario. Those two provinces are the only regions that generate a majority on this question. One-quarter of Canadians feel the Prairies are well-treated:

Agreement on western alienation

The Angus Reid Institute’s findings suggest feelings of disenfranchisement in the Prairies are not simply a case of ‘woe is me’. Many in other provinces agree the federal government is not adequately representing the interests of Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba.

Nearly half of Canadians say that both Alberta and Saskatchewan are poorly represented, with four-in-ten saying the same for Manitoba.

In an apparent case of western unity, half of Alberta and Saskatchewan residents also feel B.C. is given the short end of the stick:

For detailed results by age, gender, region, education, and other demographics, click here.

To read the full report, including detailed tables and methodology, click here.

Click here to read the full questionnaire used in this report.


Shachi Kurl, Executive Director: 604.908.1693 @shachikurl

Dave Korzinski, Research Director: 250.899.0821

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