Do Manitobans support the amalgamation of school divisions?

With a provincial government review of the education system underway, one idea that’s been floated is to reduce the number of school divisions, and according to a new poll, many Manitobans think this is a good idea.

The survey was conducted by Probe Research for CTV News Winnipeg and the Winnipeg Free Press between Aug. 13 and 24. It asked 1200 Manitobans whether they support or oppose the amalgamation of school divisions across the province and, for the most part, found people were in favour of it.

Over 60 per cent of respondents said they support amalgamation among Manitoba’s 37 school divisions, and 38 per cent are against it.

Manitobans were then asked specifically if they would support or oppose the merger of their own school division with one or more nearby and the results were largely the same: 58 per cent said they support it while 42 per cent said they are against it.

When divided into demographics, the groups that are more likely to back amalgamation across the province, as well as in their own school division are: Winnipeggers, men, older Manitobans, people who make an income over $100,000, those who don’t have children at home and PC voters.

School division amalgamation in Winnipeg

Currently there are six school divisions in Winnipeg, which is more than in some larger Canadian cities, such as Calgary and Toronto.

The survey presented two possible scenarios to respondents regarding the number of school divisions in Winnipeg: having one division for the entire city, and having a school division for Winnipeg’s four quadrants – northwest, northeast, southwest and southeast.

In terms of only have one division, 57 per cent of Manitobans said it was acceptable, 37 per cent said unacceptable and 7 per cent said they were unsure.

This idea was most acceptable to men, higher income earners and PC voters.

Having a division for each quadrant garnered more support, with 66 per cent of people responding that it’s acceptable, 26 per cent responding with unacceptable and 8 per cent who are unsure.

This suggestion was more popular among residents of southeast Winnipeg and younger adults.

Minor statistical weighting was applied to the poll to ensure age, regional and gender characteristics reflected Manitoba’s population. A statistical margin of error can’t be ascribed to an online panel, but for purposes of comparison a sample of 1200 people would have a margin of error of plus or minus 2.8 percentage points 95 per cent of the time.

The provincial election takes place on Sept. 10.