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Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Albertans Most Open to Immigration - Go Figure!

There is more and mounting evidence that the Alberta image of a red neck radical Conservative political culture is misinformed. The recent election of Naheed Nenshi as Mayor of Calgary caused the central Canada and national media to buzz with the "News" of such countervailing evidence to the mistaken prejudice they harbour about what Alberta is really like.  I have lots of other stories and examples too but that is for another time.

Now we have the Leger Marketing poll of 1503 Canadians that shows Albertans as the most open of any group of Canadians to accepting immigrants without restrictions and limitations based on country of origin.  In Alberta 46% don't believe in any such restrictions.

In Ontario 29% believe there should be restrictions on immigration from some countries "to balance the mix." Quebec has the most liberal values in all of Canada but 35% of them also favour limiting immigration based on country of origin. This is the highest level of wanting restrictions in all of Canada. Only 25% of Albertans hold such narrow and restrictive views on immigration based on country of origin.

So Alberta is not the progressive back woods in Canada when it comes to welcoming newcomers from all over the world.  Part of this is because we need skilled workers here more than anywhere else in Canada. Part of this is also because the Alberta economy is relatively stronger than the rest of the country so perhaps we don't feel threatened by newcomers.

We can't discount the possibility that Albertans are just more welcoming, accepting and tolerant of immigrants and we don't really care all that much about country of origin as a deciding criteria.  Of course we have to get beyond merely being accepting and tolerant of newcomers.  We have to actually come to savour the benefits of diversity as we continue the great experiment of Canada.  We see this sense of savouring diversity in younger citizens already.  The point is Albertan's core values about immigration are about inclusion, diversity, freedom, fairness and empowerment of citizens so we can create opportunity of responsible prosperity. Those are mainstream values in the Canadian context too but Alberta does not get credit for holding those values, never mind  leading in them.

One has to wonder were the mistaken impressions of Alberta values and beliefs comes from, particularly  in the rest of Canada.    My sense is a main source has been because of the kind of politicians we have been sending to Ottawa, especially those Conservatives who are known to be fundamentalist and hardcore social conservatives.  With Jim Prentice quitting the Harper government and leaving politics, the last moderate progressive political voice in Ottawa is gone...not that he was ever allowed to say much in the first place. The ultra-conservative political voices "representing" Alberta get all the air time and media attention without any countervailing voices. Could that be a reason why Albertans are so misunderstood in the rest of Canada?  Just a thought.