By Bruce Anderson and David Coletto
In the wake of the announcement that former Harper-era cabinet minister Jay Hill is taking over the leadership of Wexit Canada – a political party whose goal is the separation of the four most western provinces from the rest of Canada – we polled Canadians on what they thought of this platform.
Here’s what we found:
• 12% think it’s a good idea for BC to separate, and another 26% could live with it, while 64% say it’s a terrible idea. In BC 13% say it’s a good idea, 16% could live with it, and 71% think it’s a terrible idea. Among federal Conservative voters, 16% say it’s a good idea, 22% could live with it, and 62% think it a terrible idea.
• 11% think it is a good idea for Alberta to separate, another 26% could live with it, while 63% say terrible. In Alberta, 20% like the idea, 26% could live with it, and 54% say it’s a terrible idea. Federal Conservative voters are 10-points more open to or supportive of the idea.
• 9% say it’s a good idea for Saskatchewan to leave the country, 29% could live with it, while 62% say it’s a terrible idea. 40% of federal Conservatives like (17%) or are open to (23%) the idea.
• Results about Manitoba separating are almost identical to those about Saskatchewan: 9% like the idea, 28% could live with it, and 62% say it’s a terrible idea.
• For all four provinces, Quebecers show a higher than average willingness to go along with separation, undoubtedly reflecting the fact that many people in Quebec have favoured Quebec separation at one point or another.
• 7% of Canadians think it would be a good thing if all four western provinces separated. Among that group, in 2019, 49% voted Conservative, 17% voted BQ, 16% voted Liberal, 11% voted NDP, and 5% voted for the People’s Party of Canada.
• 7% of those living across the four western-most provinces think it would be a good thing if all four western provinces separated. Among that group, in 2019, 81% voted Conservative.
Western separation continues to find limited support but some potential acquiescence. Based on current sentiments there are enough advocates and enough strong opponents to imagine a spirited debate – but actual support for the concept is confined to a small minority.
Those willing to go along with the idea are not saying they would vote to support it, and the experience in most referendums is that an idea needs to start which considerably more than 50% support to finish above that level.
If there is a political consequence in the nearer term it may be the potential for this party, under Mr. Hill’s leadership, to drain support from the federal Conservative Party. Every vote he picks up hurts the Conservatives far more than any other party. The combination of a People’s Party, a Wexit campaign means the next federal Conservative leader will need to decide early whether to take a hard pro-Canada line against Mr. Hill’s effort or acknowledge the legitimacy of separatism in an effort to hold it’s base together.
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The survey was conducted with 1,500 Canadian residents from June 26 t0 30, 2020. A random sample of panelists were invited to complete the survey from a set of partner panels based on the Lucid exchange platform. These partners are typically double opt-in survey panels, blended to manage out potential skews in the data from a single source.
The margin of error for a comparable probability-based random sample of the same size is +/- 2.8%, 19 times out of 20.
The data were weighted according to census data to ensure that the sample matched Canada’s population according to age, gender, educational attainment, and region. Totals may not add up to 100 due to rounding.