Should Alberta's oil wealth be shared?

a Strategic Counsel poll reported in today's Globe and Mail reveals a deep split between albertans and non-Albertans on whether and how the province's mushrooming oil wealth should be shared. Despite the efforts of federal politicians to duck this issue, I expect that tensions will grow as Canadians continue to pay through the nose at the pump. Where is Pierre Trudeau now that we need him for NEP II?

'Conflict' looms over Alberta's oil wealthRevenue sharing a potentially explosive campaign issue, survey results indicate By BRIAN LAGHI

Friday, September 16, 2005 Updated at 5:24 AM EDT

From Friday's Globe and Mail

Albertans and residents of the rest of Canada are deeply split over whether the oil-rich province should share its current windfall to help other provinces rocked by soaring energy costs, according to a new poll.

The survey's findings are a warning to any federal party that it would face a national-unity powder keg should it wade into the issue, particularly during the coming election campaign.

The poll, conducted for The Globe and Mail and CTV by The Strategic Counsel, finds that only 26 per cent of Albertans believe that their province's oil bonus should be shared to help those harmed by rising energy costs, compared with 61 per cent of the rest of Canada.

"If anyone wants to seriously engage in this issue, we're going to have a big conflict," said Allan Gregg, the company's chairman. "A very big conflict."


Mr. Gregg said trying to somehow siphon off Alberta oil revenue would rekindle memories of the national energy program, which is blamed to this day for the Liberals' difficulties in winning seats in the province.

"The memories are very, very long."

The poll, conducted between Sept. 7 and 14, is based on a survey of 1,000 voting-age Canadians and is accurate to within 3.1 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

But the regional tension found on the energy question was replaced with a greater spirit of national unity when it came to more abstract questions on issues such as equalization.

Asked, for example, whether provincial resources should belong to all Canadians or only to those living in the province where the resource is found, 76 per cent said they belong to all. Even in Alberta, 55 per cent of respondents said the resources belong to the country.

And on the more general question of whether provinces should share royalty payments from resources, 42 per cent said at least part of the money should go to other Canadians.

Forty-seven per cent of Albertans also felt this way.

The harmony, however, appears to break down when the more specific question on the oil windfall is asked. Mr. Gregg suggested that may be because leaders in Alberta tend to inflame rhetoric by arguing that the surplus belongs solely to the province.

"Once you get a political exhortation, like Ralph Klein saying 'keep your hands off it,' I think that's when you get regional interest overarching the national interest," he said.

The federal government is contemplating a plan to provide relief for low-income Canadians facing potentially high home-heating prices this winter.

Given the survey, Mr. Gregg said, such a program must be financed by general federal government revenues and not as part of a raid on Alberta.

On the question of equalization, most Canadians believe that they get back as much or more from the program than they give. In Quebec, 55 per cent surveyed said they contribute the same or even less to Confederation than they get back, while only 37 per cent say they contribute more.

This appears to be a significant reversal in sentiment from the 1995 referendum campaign, when many Quebeckers believed the opposite, said Mr. Gregg.

Only in Alberta and Ontario do residents believe they contribute more than what they get back.

The poll also found that 67 per cent of Canadians believe that national programs should either be uniform across the country, or at least have national standards, with each province deciding on their own how to meet those standards. Share and share alike

Ask Canadians about revenue-sharing and how the country should share wealth, and you get agreement. For example, when asked whether provincial resources should belong to all Canadians or only to those living in the province where the resource is found, 76 per cent said they belong to all.

But get specific -- like asking whether Alberta should share its windfall from oil -- and that harmony ends. Sixty-nine per cent of Albertans say the province should keep its budget surplus whereas 61 per cent of the rest of Canadians say the surplus should be shared.

How much to the provinces give compared to what they get back from the rest of Canada?


More than it gets back: 58%

About the same: 25%

Less than it gets back: 6%

Don't know: 11%


More than it gets back: 37%

About the same: 36%

Less than it gets back: 19%

Don't know: 9%


More than it gets back: 66%

About the same: 18%

Less than it gets back: 7%

Don't know: 9%

How believable is the claim that there is a fiscal imbalance between Ottawa and the provinces?


Somewhat/very: 70%

Not too/not very: 21%

Don't know: 9%

All of Canada

Somewhat/very: 75%

Not too/not very: 16%

Do you think provincial resources should belong to all Canadians?


Belong to all: 55%

Belong to the people who live in the province: 39%

Don't know: 6%

All of Canada

Belong to all: 76%

Belong to the people who live in the province: 21%

Don't know: 3%

Should Alberta share its budget surplus with other provinces hurt by higher energy costs or keep it?


Share: 26%

Keep: 69%

Don't know: 5%

Rest of Canada

Share: 61%

Keep: 34%

Don't know: 5%



Jay said...

One of my albertan co-workers is pretty up in arms about this. He cites that the professor who authored the study is Quebecois and a separatist

cardinal47 said...

Interesting. I'm not sure who he is referring to. If it's Allan Gregg, he's certainly not a Quebec separatist. He lives in Toronto and is a strong federalist. Maybe he's referring to someone else?