TrendingOil | Keystone XL | TFSA | BlackBerry | Warren Buffett | Apple Inc | Earnings | Housing Market

B.C. residents support Northern Gateway pipeline: poll

| | Last Updated: Jan 5 8:38 AM ET
More from Postmedia News

  • Twitter
  • Google+
  • LinkedIn
  • Email
  • Comments
  • More

By Peter O’Neil

OTTAWA — British Columbians by a 48-32 percentage margin support the $5.5-billion Northern Gateway pipeline project linking the Alberta oilsands to the West Coast, according to a new poll.

The Ipsos-Reid survey, commissioned by project proponent Enbridge Inc. of Calgary, counters the perception that an overwhelming majority of British Columbians are against the controversial megaproject, according to Enbridge spokesman Paul Stanway.

Northern Gateway critics have long cited a 2010 poll suggesting broad public opposition as a key factor in the campaign to block the project which, if it doesn’t go ahead, could cost Canadian oil producers $72-billion over nine years, according to a recent analysis commissioned by the Alberta government.

Stanway said the poll, released exclusively to Postmedia News, will set a “proper context” for the launch of National Energy Board hearings into Northern Gateway that begin this month in northern B.C.

“The argument often made by our opponents that there is overwhelming opposition from British Columbians in general, and I think that’s far from being an accurate view of what’s going on,” he said.

The online poll, involving 1,000 British Columbians during the Dec. 12-15 period, began by describing Northern Gateway as a proposal to build an underground pipeline from the Edmonton area to Kitimat, B.C.

“One pipeline will transport oil to Kitimat for export by tanker to China and other Asian markets. A second pipeline will be used to import condensate (a product used to thin oil products for pipeline transport) to Alberta.”

Respondents were asked about their awareness of the issue, and 42% said they were “very” or “somewhat” familiar, while 55% were “not very” or “not at all” aware. Three per cent didn’t know or wouldn’t say.

They were then asked: “Based on what you know to date, would you say that you generally support or oppose the Northern Gateway pipelines project?”

Fourteen per cent said they “strongly” and 34% said they “somewhat” supported the project, while 18% “somewhat” and 13% “strongly” opposed the project. A large portion, 20%, didn’t know or refused to say.

Asked in an open-ended question to name the “main benefit” of the project, 61% cited “employment/economic/export/trade” benefits, while 43% identified their main “concern” as being “general environmental” matters. Another 21% specifically mentioned “risk of oil spills/leaks,” while seven per cent mentioned “general safety/protection” and five per cent “pollution.”

The poll is considered to have an error margin of 3.1 percentage points, 19 times out of 20, according to Ipsos-Reid.

The 48-32 margin (18 and 13 adds up to 32 due to rounding) in favour differs significantly from a frequently cited 2010 Mustel Group poll funded by ForestEthics, an environmental group opposed to the project.

That poll first asked if British Columbians believe there should be a ban on tanker traffic in B.C.’s “inside coastal waters,” which resulted in 80 per cent saying they support a ban. This result is the source of repeated claims by environmental groups that an overwhelming majority of British Columbians are opposed to Northern Gateway, which would serve supertankers docking at Kitimat to ship diluted bitumen to overseas markets.

The Mustel poll respondents were then asked: “Based on what you currently know, would you say you support or oppose Enbridge’s proposal to build an oil pipeline from the tar sands and bring oil tanker traffic to B.C.’s North Coast?”

That question resulted in 31.7 per cent saying they were “strongly” and 19.3 per cent “somewhat” opposed, while 25.6 per cent were “somewhat” and 8.1 per cent “strongly” against.

That 51-34 margin against Northern Gateway was based on a telephone poll of 500 British Columbians had an error margin of 4.5 percentage points, 19 times out of 20, according to Mustel.

University of B.C. forest resources management professor George Hoberg, a frequent commentator on the Northern Gateway project, cautioned that the Enbridge result didn’t use the terms “oilsands” or “tanker.”

Use of those “hot button” terms could significantly influence the results, he said, adding he is skeptical of polls such as those by Ipsos and Mustel that were funded by parties with a stake in the debate.

Hoberg also noted politicians, both in Ottawa and Victoria, are much more sensitive to people who have “intense” views on the matter — and in particular conservative-oriented voters who, perhaps because they are active sports fishermen, may cross party lines to oppose the Northern Gateway project.

Ipsos-Reid vice-president Kyle Braid said the low awareness level suggests opinions could shift as attention turns to the public hearings.

“There is more support in British Columbia for Northern Gateway than there is opposition, but . . . familiarity with the project is quite low, which means opinions could shift over time,” he said.

“And I think the public is looking to hear from both supporters and opponents to make their case, and they’re willing to hear from both sides on this issue.”

Enbridge’s Stanway said the low awareness level presents an opportunity to the company.

The poll “shows British Columbians are a lot more open-minded than some people would suggest,” he said. “What this says to us is that there’s an opportunity here to convince and to educate British Columbians.

  • Twitter
  • Google+
  • LinkedIn
  • Email
  • Comments
  • More

Topics: , , , , , , , , ,

blog comments powered by Disqus
  • Find a Story
  • Stock Search

News Videos

FP Picks

‘There will be some blood': Will Canada’s oilpatch withstand the price onslaught?

There will be pain as the impact of low oil prices reverberates through the oilpatch, but the industry is entering the downturn from a position of strength

The most bizarre business stories of 2014

From bicycle seats on planes to junior miners transforming into medical marijuana companies, here are some of the stories that made us scratch our heads in 2014

Post Arcade's Chad Sapieha plays a lot of iOS games. Here are his 10 favourites of 2014

I played only a tiny fraction of the thousands of games released for iOS this year, but sifting through them to pick ten favourites was hard

Get ready to pay more for those sunny Cuban vacations, Canadians

The dawn of a new era between the United States and Cuba is poised to spell the end of a golden age for Canadian tourists, experts say

Here are 30 stocks to own in 2015 (including a few Canadian names)

RBC Capital Markets has released its top 30 global equity ideas for 2015 and a handful of Canadian companies made the cut

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 2,332 other followers