The Confederation of Tomorrow surveys are annual studies conducted by an association of the country’s leading public policy organizations: the Environics Institute for Survey Research, the Canada West Foundation, the Centre D’Analyse Politique – Constitution et Fédéralisme, the Institute for Research on Public Policy and the Brian Mulroney Institute of Government and the Johnson Shoyama Graduate School of Public Policy. The surveys give voice to Canadians about the major issues shaping the future of the federation and their political communities. The 2021 study consists of a survey of 5,814 adults, conducted online in the provinces between January 25 and February 17; and online and by telephone in the territories between January 25 and March 1.

This report was produced and published by Environics Institute

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Executive Summary

The mid-point of each calendar year offers an ideal opportunity for Canadians to reflect on issues related to national identity. This period is marked by three national holidays in quick succession: Quebec’s Saint Jean Baptiste Day (or Fête Nationale) on June 24, Canada Day on July 1, and Independence Day in the United States on July 4. This report, based upon the Confederation of Tomorrow 2021 survey of Canadians, presents findings on feelings of attachment to Canada, as well as to one’s province or territory, and explores perceptions of Canada’s advantages relative to the United States in the aftermath of the 2020 U.S presidential election.

Attachment to Canada and to province/ territory

Most Canadians feel attached to the country, and to their province or territory. However, the situations inside and outside Quebec are very different. Canadians outside Quebec are more likely to feel very attached to Canada than very attached to their province or territory. The opposite is true in Quebec, where fewer feel very attached to Canada, and more feel very attached to their province. Outside Quebec, attachment to Canada is highest in PEI and Nova Scotia, and lowest in the North. The proportion feeling very attached to their province or territory is highest in the easternmost provinces, and lowest in the Northwest Territories and Alberta. Outside Quebec, the proportion that is very attached to Canada increases significantly with age. But unlike in the rest of the country, younger Quebecers (and younger francophone Quebecers, specifically) are more, not less, likely to say they feel very attached to Canada. Feelings of attachment to Canada and to one’s province or territory also vary by political ideology, but in different ways across the country. In Manitoba and Alberta, for instance, those on the right are more likely than those on the left to feel very attached to their province. In Newfoundland and Labrador, Quebec (among francophones) and British Columbia, the pattern is reversed, with feelings of provincial attachment being stronger among those on the left.

For the vast majority of Canadians, feelings of attachment to Canada, and to their province or territory, overlap: they feel attached to both, rather than choosing one form of attachment over another. Francophone Quebecers offer a partial exception to this pattern. While the majority of francophone Quebecers feel attached to both Canada and Quebec, a more sizeable minority feels attached to Quebec but not to Canada. The Prairie provinces offer a partial exception in the opposite sense: this is the only region where more than one in ten feels attached to Canada, but not to their province or territory.

The Prairie provinces stand out, however, not only because of the more sizeable minority that feels attached to Canada but not to their province or territory, but also because of the greater extent of political polarization related to this sentiment. In these provinces, very few of those who place themselves on the political right feel attached to Canada, but not to their province; among those on the left, however, the proportion reaches one in three. This polarization is most pronounced in Alberta.

In addition to feeling attached to Canada and to their province or territory, most Canadians also feel attached to the city, town or region where they live. This sense of attachment does not vary by size of community: the proportion feeling very attached to their city, town or region is similar for those living in metropolises, mid-sized cities and smaller towns.

Comparing Canada and the United States

Across a wide range of areas, Canadians believe their country performs better than the United States, and they have become even more sure of Canada’s advantage over time.

Of all the items asked about in the survey, health care is the one that Canadians are most likely to say is better in their country than in the United States. But large majorities also say that, compared to the U.S., Canada maintains a better quality of life for its citizens; is better at promoting equality for ethnic and racial minorities; provides better social security for groups like senior citizens, the unemployed and the poor; has a better educational system; and has a better system of government. A majority of Canadians also says their country has a higher standard of living than does the U.S

In most of these areas, Canadians have become even more likely than they were 30 years ago to say that their country does better than the U.S. This change is most noticeable in the case of views about government. In 1991, Canadians were divided as to which country had the better system of government. Since then, in the wake of years of polarized politics in the U.S., culminating in the tumultuous presidency of Donald Trump, the proportion saying Canada’s system of government is better has doubled, while the proportion preferring the U.S. system has collapsed.

The proportions of Canadians that say their country offers a higher standard of living and has more opportunities to get ahead have also increased.

When considering both the standard of living and opportunities to get ahead, younger Canadians are more likely than their older counterparts to say that Canada does better. Thirty years ago, however, these differences among age groups were absent. The improved assessment of Canada’s performance between 1991 and 2021 is therefore largely driven by the fact that younger generations today are much more likely than younger generations 30 years ago to say that Canada does better

The 2020 U.S. Presidential Election

Canadians are much more likely to take a positive than a negative view of the outcome of the 2020 U.S. presidential election. This is the case in most regions of the country, but not all. In Alberta, opinions are much more evenly divided. In fact, the proportion of Albertans saying the outcome will be bad for Canada edges out that who say it will be good by a small margin.

Clear majorities of supporters of the Liberal Party, the NDP and the Green Party say that the outcome of the U.S. election will be good for Canada, as do one in two supporters of the Bloc Québécois. Conservative Party supporters, in contrast, are more likely to say that Joe Biden’s election as president will be bad for Canada than they are to say it will be good.

Most of those who see the election outcome being good for Canada explain their view by mentioning the positive character traits of Joe Biden, or the negative character traits of his predecessor. Those who say the outcome will be bad for Canada are most likely to say this is because Joe Biden is against Canadian oil or will cancel pipeline projects.

This report was produced by Environics Institute