Outsiders find Albertans 'smug' and 'uncaring,' says poll

A poll conducted for the Alberta government on how its citizens are seen in Toronto and Vancouver finds many think Albertans are "condescending" and "narrow."

2008 poll could be more relevant today, says one political scientist

The city that likes to consider itself the Centre of the Universe now thinks that Calgary and Edmonton are the ones getting too big for their britches.


How do you view Albertans? Have your say.

At least, that's the conclusion of extensive polling done for the Alberta government into how its citizens are seen elsewhere in Canada.

"In Toronto, we found clear evidence of frustration that Alberta was becoming a stronger pillar and a more central agent in terms of Canada's economy, eclipsing Ontario in some respects," said a report on the Harris Decima poll, released in 2009 but unpublicized until now.

Harris Decima poll finds Albertans feel the stereotypes too. (

"In Toronto and Vancouver, there were also considerable perceptions that Alberta was a fairly right-wing or conservative place, and that compassion, open-mindedness and tolerance was not always what it could or should be."

The poll was conducted in the fall of 2008 in Toronto and Vancouver as well as several Alberta communities. It used both surveys and focus groups and has a 2.8 per cent margin of error.

It found that Albertans are generally considered hard-working, entrepreneurial and optimistic people who live in a place of outstanding natural beauty. But that view, said the poll, has "negative edges."

It found 40 per cent of non-Albertan respondents felt Albertans didn't care much about the rest of Canada. More than a quarter described Albertans as greedy and another quarter found them arrogant.

Albertans feel the stereotypes too, finds poll

A total of 42 per cent felt the statements Alberta "cares about the environment" and "is working to ease environmental impacts" carried little, if any, truth.

While the words "confident," "bold," "generous," and "prosperous" were associated with Albertans, so were "smug," "condescending," "uncaring" and "narrow."

Albertans felt it, too.

'The economic divide is growing between the resource provinces and the rest of Canada.'— Political scientist Chaldeans Mensah

"Many Albertans also felt that the province had, somewhat unfairly, acquired a reputation for being less tolerant, less compassionate and less environmentally careful than ideal," the report said.

"While some argued that the problem was one of perception, some also felt the reality was that Alberta had had some room to improve in all three respects."

While the data is old, political scientist Chaldeans Mensah from MacEwan University in Edmonton said it's probably even more relevant now.

"The economic divide is growing between the resource provinces and the rest of Canada," he said.

"The tensions are likely to grow if we don't stem the continuing decline in the economic fortunes of Ontario. Albertans will begin to be targeted, similar to the way it was decades ago when the situation was reversed when Albertans saw Central Canadians as a bit snobbish and uncaring about concerns out here."

Alberta's reputation probably worse today, says political expert

Political scientist Duane Bratt of Calgary's Mount Royal University agreed.

"Alberta's reputation is probably worse today," he said. "The joke that used to unite Canadians was a hatred of Toronto.

"Why was Toronto hated? Because it was the biggest, richest, most powerful spot in Canada. Now, that view is going toward Alberta."

Premier Alison Redford has been frequently travelling out of province to dispel misconceptions about Albertans. (Chris Young/Canadian Press)

Government spokesman Jay O'Neill said Alberta Premier Alison Redford has been working hard to dispel misconceptions through frequent trips outside the province.

"Albertans wanted to see more of a presence of their government on the national stage and international stage," he said.

"Some people have different points of view of what we are. There are myths out there."

Mensah and Bratt said the province's redneck image is undeserved and the envy of it is unmerited.

Stereotypes tough to break

Mensah pointed out support for the federal Green party is quite strong in Alberta. Bratt said most Alberta Conservatives would fit comfortably in the right wing of the Democratic Party in the United States.

The view that holds Alberta's success is due entirely to its lucky location atop oceans of oil is "very simplistic," Bratt said.

'Within every stereotype, there's a kernel of truth.'— Political scientist Duane Bratt

But he said Alberta will have a tough time overcoming the old stereotypes.

"Within every stereotype, there's a kernel of truth," said Bratt. 

Alberta will have to work harder to build bridges with the rest of Canada, said Mensah, but it needs more than a better sales job.

"The government has to convince not only Albertans but also people from the rest of Canada that it is addressing the environmental concerns (of the oilsands) and it is on a sustainable course," said Mensah.

"It has to be more than simply marketing. It has to be based on action."