A recent Angus Reid Institute survey of Canadians’ approval (or disapproval) of their provincial governments’ performances was full of surprises while bereft of optimism.
Angus Reid maintains a Government Performance Index for each province calculated from the average number of residents saying the government has done a good or great job on 13 issues including inflation, health care, climate change, the economy, education and energy policy.
The first surprise, perhaps, was how approval has fallen over the pandemic years. In 2019 the average approached 50 percent with some provinces (BC, Alberta, Saskatchewan and Quebec) scoring well above. This year the average was 30 percent with none reaching a majority. There appears to be overwhelming dissatisfaction with the handling of key issues.
The highest approval was for Saskatchewan’s government and that was only 43 percent. The province did well on some issues, with 60 percent for its handling of the economy and 61 percent for its energy policy.
The biggest surprise for me was that my government’s approval rating was second highest. The election of Danielle Smith actually seems to have given the Alberta government a boost, even though her personal rating is much lower than Jason Kenney’s was early in his term.
At the bottom of the list—no surprise here—Manitoba and Ontario tied with only 21 percent approval.
The two top issues across the board were health care and the cost of living, with housing affordability running third in most provinces. Given these as the top issues, it isn’t hard to understand the discontent.
Interestingly, this discontent doesn’t necessarily reflect voter intentions. For example, even though Ontario’s government ranked at the bottom in approval, the PCs are still the most popular party. The BC government’s approval rating is only 27 percent (fourth lowest and lowest in a decade) yet the NDP have a commanding lead in voter intentions.
These seeming contradictions suggests a lack of trust that any party is able and willing to improve health care or bring down the cost of living. Or solve the housing crisis. No province gets more than a paltry 38 percent approval for its handling of health care or the cost-of-living. In yet another surprise, Alberta leads both categories.
Overall the picture is not one of citizen trust in the political class. Three years of Covid and its revelations about gaps in our health care combined with a round of inflation seem to have left a legacy of political pessimism.