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Feb 23, 2012

New Mowat Centre Research Note

February 23, 2012

The New Ontario: The Shifting Attitude of Ontarians Toward the Federation.

Ontarians less satisfied with their province’s status in Canada –

New study documents Ontarians’ concerns about federal treatment

Toronto – As the federal government prepares to return to Parliament to confront issues such as the deficit and climate change, a new study shows that Ontarians are less likely to compromise their interests for the sake of national unity than in the past.

According to a new study by the Mowat Centre at the University of Toronto, co-authored by Matthew Mendelsohn and Scott Matthews, Ontarians are more likely than previously to believe their province gets less than its fair share of federal spending and receives less than its fair share of respect in the country.

“We tracked the evolution of Ontarians views of the federation. When the same polling questions were asked in previous years, Ontarians were much more satisfied with their status in Canada than Canadians in other provinces. Today Ontarians resemble other Canadians in believing that there are inequities in the federation that must be addressed,” explained Mowat Centre director Matthew Mendelsohn.

Sixty three per cent of Ontarians said that the province did not receive its fair share of transfers from the federal government. When this same question was asked previously in 1998, just 37% of Ontarians felt the province received less than it deserved in federal spending. In 2004, just 27% of Ontarians believed the province was not treated with the respect it deserved in the country; today that number has risen to 51%.

“Although Ontario does not lead the country in its sense of dissatisfaction, it certainly leads in the growth of dissatisfaction over the past five years,” observed Scott Matthews, a professor of Political Science at Queen’s University.

“The political implications of these polling results may soon be apparent,” noted Mendelsohn.  “The federal government confronts divisive fiscal and environmental challenges. In the past, when regional divisions heated up, Ontario was often there to act as a calming presence. The Ontario public may no longer be supportive of such a posture, potentially making divisive issues like climate change even more volatile.”