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Majority of Albertans support public funding for religious schools, poll says

A new poll suggests a majority of Albertans support at least partial public funding for religious schools.

But 30% want no taxpayer support for religious schools, and 27% back only partial funding

A poll suggests most Albertans support at least some level of public funding for religious schools. (CBC)

A new poll suggests a majority of Albertans support at least partial public funding for religious schools.

Public interest groups across Canada have long debated whether religiously affiliated schools should receive taxpayer funding.

The poll​ found seven out of 10 respondents in Alberta said yes, at least in part.

The Angus Reid Institute poll was funded jointly with Cardus. Cardus, which is based in Hamilton, describes itself as a policy "think tank dedicated to the renewal of North American social architecture" drawing on "more than 2,000 years of Christian social thought."

Cardus director of education Beth Green said this is likely due to the current educational landscape in the province, which offers parents choice.

"And they're proving it by choosing religious schools for their kids," she said.

"So you've got almost a quarter of the province's students in a Catholic school."

The survey results in Alberta found that 30 per cent favour no funding for religious schools, 27 per cent said there should be partial funding, and 43 per cent said religious schools deserve full funding on par with public schools.

The poll found that support for publicly funding religious schools was higher in Alberta than in the country as a whole. (Angus Reid Institute)

Nationally, support for full, equal funding for religious schools drops to 31 per cent, and 39 per cent of respondents said they should not get public funding at all, while 30 per cent support partial funding.

A closer examination of the other Alberta numbers tells a different story, according to Barbara Silva, communications director for Support Our Students Alberta, a public education advocacy group.

"If you look at the people who believe religious schools should get partial funding or no funding at all, when you combine those two, 27 per cent and 30 per cent, you can actually make the claim that 57 per cent of Albertans feel that there should be partial, or no funding at all to religious or private schools."

In a statement, Alberta Education said it supports, and will continue to support, school choice in Alberta.

The online survey of 1,972 adults was conducted from Oct. 16 to Oct. 23.

A probability sample of this size would carry a margin of error of plus or minus 2.2 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

Corrections

  • An earlier version of this story incorrectly identified Cardus as a Toronto-based religious freedom advocacy group. In fact, it is based in Hamilton, Ont., and is a non-partisan, not-for-profit public policy think tank. Also, the poll was paid jointly by Cardus and the Angus Reid Institute, not solely by Cardus.
    Dec 15, 2017 10:12 AM MT

With files from Lucie Edwardson