The Confederation of Tomorrow surveys are annual studies conducted by an association of the country’s leading public policy organizations: the Environics Institute for Survey Research, the Canada West Foundation, the Centre D’Analyse Politique – Constitution et Fédéralisme, the Institute for Research on Public Policy and the Brian Mulroney Institute of Government and the Johnson Shoyama Graduate School of Public Policy. The surveys give voice to Canadians about the major issues shaping the future of the federation and their political communities. The 2021 study consists of a survey of 5,814 adults, conducted online in the provinces between January 25 and February 17; and online and by telephone in the territories between January 25 and March 1.
One of the main objectives of the Confederation of Tomorrow survey project is to track the regular ups and downs of federal-provincial and inter-regional tensions in Canada. The most recent survey, conducted in February 2021, had an additional goal, however: to assess whether the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic reshaped Canadians’ attitudes toward federalism. Did the federal, provincial and territorial responses to the crisis alleviate or exacerbate public discontent with how federalism works in Canada?
The 2021 survey finds much more consistency than change in Canadians’ attitudes toward federalism. For instance, there has been little change overall to opinions on how the economy should be managed within the federation, on the advantages of federalism for one’s province or territory, or on Canadians’ ability to resolve their differences. One modest exception to this pattern is that, in many provinces, the proportions saying their province receives less than its fair share of federal spending have declined.
In cases where changes in attitudes are evident, these generally continue longer-term trends that cannot be linked directly to the response to the pandemic. This is the case, for instance, with concerns about the French language in Quebec, or with declining support for some of the positions of the provincial governments in Alberta and Saskatchewan.