The Western provinces are disgruntled, friends. Perturbed. Annoyed. Frustrated. Mood ring color: Black. My buddy Angus says so.
A new poll from Angus Reid says that if there were an option of a Western Canada Party, a full 35 per cent of westerners would vote for that party. The rest splits out to 29 per cent Conservative, 15 per cent Liberal, 13 per cent NDP, and 6 per cent Green, with two per cent voting for ‘other party’.
There’s a lot to mull over in those numbers.
First of all, the fact that the Liberals come out only two points ahead of the federal NDP — a party whose support is cratering — in Western Canada should be alarming to the Liberal Party. While the west, with the possible exception of parts of British Columbia, has always been a tougher go for the Liberals, these numbers promise tough times ahead for the federal Liberals in the west.
What should concern the Conservatives is not going to play out this year. There, as of now, is no Western Canada Party and there won’t be one in this year’s election. But, the fact that 35 per cent say they would vote for such a party indicates that there is no great enthusiasm for Andrew Scheer’s Conservatives either. Sure, they thump the Liberals, but in the west, that is often true. It should be of great concern to the Conservatives that this party might actually come into existence at some point.
Now Conservatives in the past have actually had a pretty nifty way of dealing with splinter parties. If they show any signs of success, they absorb them. Eat their own young so to speak. Remember the Reform Party? Merged with the Conservatives, negating any threat. How about the Wild Rose Party in Alberta? Merged with the Conservatives to form the United Conservative Party, negating any vote splitting on the right.
If there’s one thing Conservatives can recognize and deal with immediately, it is the threat of vote splitting on the right.
Generally speaking, those on the left have a number of choices and nuances between platforms from which to choose. Those on the right have one.
Wait I can hear Maxime Bernier yelling from here — okay, Maxime, two choices on the right.
Now Angus points out that there are actually two possibilities in the western future; the formation of a new party, and actual separation. Most believe that western separation would never happen, but in Alberta, fully 50 per cent see Alberta separation as a possibility.
That’s a pretty huge number. Think about previous Quebec referendums coming down to the wire and splitting around the 50 per cent mark.
Half of Albertans think separation is a possibility. I think that’s astounding.
While I realize that blaming the federal government for all your woes is an Alberta tradition — the provincial song is a lament — the provincial governments haven’t exactly been sitting in deck chairs while the feds steered the ship onto rocky shores. Yet the poll says 63 per cent of westerners are angry at Ottawa for their treatment of the west.
Interestingly, despite their fondness for our campsites and ski hills, Angus finds that only 19 per cent of Albertans feel B.C. is close or friendly towards them, while 77 per cent get the warm and fuzzies for Saskatchewan. There’s a reason for that headed down a pipeline near you, I’m sure.
Meanwhile in B.C., respondents believe that Alberta separation is a pipe dream, with 80 per cent of us saying it’s unlikely to happen. B.C. residents are also not on board with the idea of western separation, with 43 per cent strongly opposed, and only 13 per cent in favour. In Alberta, 31 per cent would be in favour of western separation and 25 per cent are strongly opposed to it. Favourability of supporting western separation drops to 26 per cent in Saskatchewan and 16 per cent in Manitoba.
So to sum up, on the disgruntlement scale, it appears Alberta wins the day. Luckily, they have a provincial election coming up this spring, where they can take some of their frustrations out. And then the federal election in the fall.
Will their mood ring color be bright yellow at year’s end?