What We Learned in 2014


Smartphones take over our lives, for fun and commerce – Our reliance on technology continues to grow, with almost half of British Columbians saying they used their smartphone to buy something in the past three months—and spending more time looking at these devices than a television set. While parking and refreshments are still the main purchases, we are venturing into direct e-commerce from the palm of our hand. Also, our youngest residents are looking for thinner wallets, preferring the comfort of a smartphone over the bother of carrying loyalty cards.

Discrimination is a significant issue for Chinese and South Asian residents – The debut of the Your Insights Multicultural Panel gave us a chance to look into life in Canada. Chinese British Columbians selected weather, political freedom and their home as the best characteristics of their new country. However, our research also showed that one-in-four Chinese and South Asian residents experience moderate or significant amount of discrimination, mostly stereotyping and poor customer service.

Religion is a more contentious topic in British Columbia than Alberta – Easter and Christmas provided great opportunities to look at how we feel about religion. We found that, while religion is slipping to the bottom of important aspects in the lives of British Columbians, a third of residents pray regularly and report that their prayers are answered. In December, we learned that Albertans are decidedly more likely to consider religion as an integral part of the holiday season, and also more likely to believe the story of Jesus, Mary and Joseph.

We care about fitness and nutrition, but want a better health care system – We are definitely active. Three-in-four British Columbians say fitness activities are important to their lifestyle, and six-in-ten Albertans endorsed the move towards separated bike lanes in cities. Most residents in the two provinces voiced support for a ban on genetically modified foods. But when asked about the health care system, the level of satisfaction was “moderate.”

A rollercoaster ride for our provincial political leaders – The year gave us three different premiers in Alberta, an opposition leader abandoning her party to join the government, and a license plate controversy that now seems too distant. Alberta Premier Jim Prentice finishes the year with a commanding lead, after his Progressive Conservatives were way behind the now decimated Wildrose Party. In British Columbia, a majority of residents disapprove of Premier Christy Clark, and the government is losing momentum on issues they used to own, such as jobs and energy.

A year of uncertainty over British Columbia’s energy projects – And speaking of energy, it was a year of skepticism in British Columbia. The year saw support for two marquee pipeline projects drop (42% for Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain, 38% for Enbridge’s Northern Gateway), as well as questions about coal shipping in Metro Vancouver. On the issue of liquefied natural gas, just a third believe LNG will ultimately lead to a “Debt Free” province. But not all was bad news: three-in-five Albertans say they would be OK with BC getting a share of oil revenues from the Northern Gateway.

Research continues to show how we vote and why – Building on the success of our coverage in Calgary and Edmonton in 2013, we looked at two municipal races in British Columbia. In Vancouver, Gregor Robertson won a new term after holding off challenges from Kirk LaPointe and Meena Wong. In Surrey, our unique exit poll showed a large proportion of undecided and soft supporters flocking to eventual winner Linda Hepner. Our municipal research in the Lower Mainland also identified problem areas, such as Maple Ridge, where voters decidedly voted against the incumbent.

The education dispute affected everyone in British Columbia – British Columbians named the education dispute between the provincial government and the British Columbia Teachers’ Federation (BCTF) as the “Top Story” of 2014. For weeks, the work stoppage affected households, with and without children. Our polling showed that Victoria never quite matched the level of support for the BCTF, and the $40-a-day offer failed to sway parents. Legislating teachers back to work was rejected by a majority of residents, and the favoured option—arbitration—was unnecessary after the intervention of Vince Ready, our #2 “Newsmaker of the Year.”

It’s tougher to leave work behind, but we still found time to enjoy big events – British Columbians are having a tough time finding a work-life balance, because they are taking the office home. Still, we had fun following two sporting events, the Sochi Olympic Winter Games and the Soccer World Cup in Brazil. Also, a majority of Albertans voiced support for legalizing marijuana, but not other drugs.

BC and Alberta selected very different people as “Our Heroes” – For the first time, we conducted a survey on the people we admire most. Instead of relying on a canned list, we offered residents the chance to write whomever they wanted on the survey. Terry Fox reached the top in British Columbia, and Ralph Klein had the most mentions in Alberta. Our analysis also showed that Albertans tended to write “Father” more often, while British Columbians gravitated towards “Mother.” That would be a great marriage.


Photograph: Jason Howie