There is never any shortage of reasons to track the ups and downs of regional grievances in Canada: Every year brings new developments that fuel perceptions of regional winners and losers. Over the past 18 months, however, a unique event came into play: the COVID-19 pandemic. Did the collective response to a national emergency create a sense of common purpose that transcends our regional differences? Or did it widen existing gaps between those who feel the country’s federal system works in their favour, and those who feel it does not?
Our latest Confederation of Tomorrow survey of Canadians finds that, despite the scale of the emergency, there has been more continuity than change in Canadian attitudes about the federation. Most importantly, the experience has not upended Canadians’ longstanding preference for a decentralized federation with strong provincial governments.
The annual comprehensive survey, which began in 2019, allows us to explore this issue in depth. These surveys of more than 5,000 Canadians each, with meaningful sub-samples in each province and territory, include a wide range of questions about how the federation works, and how it could work better. The second edition of the survey was conducted in January 2020, shortly before the pandemic told hold in Canada. The third edition was conducted in February 2021, on the eve of the third wave. The research team identified three important questions that new survey data could help answer.