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Majority of Canadians support pipelines – but doubt Ottawa’s efforts

Don Horne   


A wide margin of Canadians support an oil pipeline that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government is pushing to build — though it remains unpopular among some voting blocs key to his reelection, a poll has found.

In a poll published Wednesday by the Angus Reid Institute, 53 per cent of Canadians said they support both the Trans Mountain pipeline, bought last year by the government, and the Energy East pipeline proposal that was abandoned by its proponent. Another 19 per cent oppose both, while 11 per cent support just one of the two.

Canada’s pipelines are essentially full and efforts to build new ones have met a long series of delays over the last decade — leading the province of Alberta to force a production cut to address a glut. According to Bloomberg News, the poll results signal generally broad support for a project the government is trying to move forward on, after a court ruling struck down its initial permit. Trudeau has struggled, though, to balance the views of environmentalists and supporters of the country’s energy sector.

The Trans Mountain pipeline would carry crude from Alberta to a Vancouver-area port. It has net-positive support in both provinces, despite high-profile opposition in British Columbia. In that province, 47 per cent favour Trans Mountain and Energy East versus 22 percent who oppose both. The gap in energy-rich Alberta is much wider — 87 per cent favour both while two per cent oppose both.


In total, 58 per cent of Canadians said the lack of new oil pipeline capacity is a “crisis” for Canada, while 42 per cent said it wasn’t. Canadians want Trudeau to move more quickly, with 50 percent saying he’s doing too little to add pipeline space, versus 27 per cent who say he’s pushing too hard already and 23 per cent who back his moves to-date.

That doesn’t mean, though, that Trudeau has full leeway to plow ahead. Vote-rich Quebec — a French-speaking province upon which much of Trudeau’s reelection hopes this year rest — is an outlier. It’s the only region where more people oppose both pipelines than support both, and it’s the only region where a majority say pipeline capacity isn’t a crisis. Energy East, proposed by TransCanada Corp., would have run through Quebec, and met stiff opposition there.

Younger people, too, are less likely to back the projects, and other polls have shown Trudeau tends to be popular among younger voters. Young people are more likely than those 35 and up to say the pipeline crunch is not a crisis, more likely to say Trudeau is pushing too hard, and more likely to oppose both pipelines. About 53 per cent of respondents who intend to vote for Trudeau’s Liberals also said they didn’t think it’s a crisis.

The poll was compiled by an online survey, held from Dec. 21, 2018 to Jan. 3, of 4,024 Canadian adults. It is considered accurate within 2.5 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

(Bloomberg News)


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