Previous research has shown that satisfaction with political institutions and trust in political actors in Canada has gradually been rising over the past decade. This report pushes this analysis deeper, by focusing not only on the national trend, but on sub-national ones as well. The results show that the patterns are not consistent, with satisfaction with democracy and trust in political actors growing in some regions of the country and falling in others. These counteracting regional trends are obscured when they are subsumed under the national average, creating the potential for emerging fault lines in the Canadian federation to be overlooked.
The detailed findings offer both some reassurance and a clear warning for those concerned with national unity in Canada. It is reassuring that confidence in Canada’s political system in Quebec is not significantly lower than average. This is notable, given Quebec’s status as a minority nation within the larger Canadian federal state. Quebec’s distinctiveness as a minority nation within Canada is evident in the survey data, but only on questions that touch on how Quebecers identify themselves, and not those related to confidence in the county’s political system.
More worryingly, satisfaction with democracy and trust in political actors has declined significantly in Alberta. A decline was registered on every measure covered in this report, and in each case, the decline was greater than that in any other region. The largest declines did not occur immediately after the start of the recession in the province in late 2014, however. The data suggest that while Albertans initially remained hopeful, levels of satisfaction with Canadian democracy faltered after changes of government at both the provincial and federal levels in 2015 proved unable to quickly reverse the province’s economic fortunes.
Because confidence in democracy was previously higher in Alberta than in the other regions, these declines leave levels of confidence in Alberta only slightly lower than average. Thus, while Albertans do not currently stand out as having significantly lower confidence in the country’s political system than do other Canadians, they do stand out as the one region where confidence across a range of measures has declined sharply in recent years. If the trend continues, a significant gap in support for the political system will emerge between Alberta and the rest of Canada.