How Alberta and the energy sector look through the eyes of Canadians

We asked 2,098 people from across the country all sorts of questions that relate to Alberta's current situation and boiled down some of the most interesting results into a handful of colourful and interactive graphs, which you'll find in this story.

We asked thousands of people across Canada about topics relevant to Alberta right now. Here's what they said.

Our CBC series tied to an EKOS research poll looked at what Canadians think of Alberta and the energy sector. (CBC)

It's no secret that times are tough in Alberta right now. We all feel it; some more than others.

But how does the rest of Canada feel?

Do they share in our pain? Take delight in our sudden fall after so much previous good fortune? Do they even care?

We asked 2,098 people from across the country all sorts of questions that relate to Alberta's current situation, through a poll we commissioned from EKOS Research.

We received reams and reams of data in response, which formed the basis for a series of stories we brought to you all last week.

But here, we boiled down some of the most interesting results into a handful of interactive graphs, which you'll find below.

Take a look at what Canadians had to say. Some of their responses might surprise you.

Oil and gas — now and in the future

One of the first things we wanted to know was how important Canadians believe oil and gas is to the national economy.

Nearly every Albertan surveyed (99 per cent) said the energy sector is either "very" or "somewhat" important, and that view was largely shared by Canadians, although not quite to the same degree.

Nationwide, 92 per cent described oil and gas as either "very" or "somewhat" important to the country's economy.

Things change, however, when we look to the future.

Click on the interactive graph below to see how viewpoints shift when Canadians consider the future of oil and gas:

Looking to the future, Canadians also have varying opinions on how to satisfy our energy needs.

Those viewpoints, perhaps unsurprisingly, are sharply divided based on the political parties we support.

We asked: Which of the following do you think should be a more important priority for Canada? And offered the two following responses:

  • Expanding fossil fuel exploration, mining and drilling, and the construction of new power plants
  • More energy efficiency, renewable energy, and regulation on energy use

Check out how party affiliation affects the answers:

Government or private sector?

And it's not just Canadians' energy priorities that skew sharply along party lines.

When it comes to regulating the energy industry, a major difference is also apparent.

Our survey respondents were asked to rate their level of agreement with the following statement: Governments should take necessary action to protect the environment, even if such action could result in an increase of energy costs and hurt some industries.

Here's how they responded:

Of course, it's not just the federal government that plays a role.

So how do Canadians see other levels of government — and the private sector — factoring into overall energy policy?

In short: Their trust is shaky in all institutions.

Fewer than 10 per cent of survey respondents said they had "a great deal of trust" in the federal government, provincial governments, municipal governments, international collaborations such as the Paris Agreement or the private sector to "develop energy policy that benefits all Canadians."

On the whole, the federal government came out the best, with 59 per cent of respondents saying they have at least "some trust" in it, while the private sector was the least trusted, overall.

Click through each institution to see how Canadians feel:

Opinions on federal supports

Alberta is the only province expected to see its economy shrink in 2016, according to the Conference Board of Canada's latest forecast.

That will make two years in a row of recession for Alberta, while the rest of the country is faring relatively well.

Of course, tough times in this province are relative. Our average earnings still outpace the rest of the country by a wide margin and our unemployment rate only just surpassed the national rate.

So do Canadians feel it's time to help out Alberta? Or at least support our beleaguered energy sector?

We asked them to rate their level of agreement or support on four possible ways for Ottawa to help out:

  • Canada's energy resources contribute significantly to our national economy and should be supported by the federal government. How would you rate your agreement?
  • Alberta is having a tough time because of slumping oil prices and needs federal government help now. How would you rate your agreement?
  • As you may know, Alberta will get more than $700 million in federal infrastructure money in the coming months to spur its economy, which has been weakened by low energy prices. Do you support or oppose this idea?
  • The federal government is considering removing restrictions on employment insurance for out of work Albertans. Do you support or oppose this idea?

Here's how their answers broke down on each question:

Frank Graves of EKOS said the poll's overall results suggest there is broad support for Alberta and the energy sector across the country.

"It may just be people thinking that we help each other out in this country," Graves said.

"But it also may be a more realistic appraisal to say that we need a strong Alberta economy to have a strong national economy."

Frank Graves of the polling firm EKOS says he was surprised by the broad support for Alberta expressed by Canadians across the country. (Vic Modderman/CBC)

Calgary at a Crossroads is CBC Calgary's special focus on life in our city during the downturn. A look at Calgary's culture, identity and what it means to be Calgarian. Read more stories from the series at Calgary at a Crossroads.

Read more from the series:


Robson Fletcher

Data Journalist / Senior Reporter

Robson Fletcher's work for CBC Calgary focuses on data, analysis and investigative journalism. He joined CBC in 2015 after spending the previous decade working as a reporter and editor at newspapers in Alberta, British Columbia and Manitoba.