Northern Gateway: Canadians split on federal decision; but majority say pipeline will be built

Northern Gateway: Canadians split on federal decision; but majority say pipeline will be built

June 18, 2014 – While nearly one-third of Canadians are unsure of whether the Harper government made the right or wrong decision to conditionally approve the Northern Gateway pipeline, people in this country have no doubt: the pipeline will be built.

These are some of the findings of an online survey of Canadian adults by Angus Reid Global (ARG). The poll was conducted and paid for by ARG after the federal government announcement on June 17.

The survey shows Canadians are split over whether the decision to allow energy company Enbridge to build an oil pipeline through northern Alberta and BC – provided it meets 209 conditions – was the correct one. Just over one-third (37%) say they think the decision was right. About the same number (34%) say the decision was wrong and nearly one-third (29%) say they aren’t sure.

Asked about those 209 conditions, just over forty per cent (43%) say they are enough to address concerns about the project, while 37 per cent say they’re not enough, and one-fifth (20%) say they aren’t sure.

When asked what factor should take greater priority in shaping this country’s energy policy, the majority of Canadians – 58 per cent – say protecting the environment is the biggest priority, while 42 per cent say the biggest priority is encouraging economic growth.

Regardless of their views on energy versus the environment, respondents had little doubt about the future of the Northern Gateway project. Nearly seven-in-ten (68%) say regardless of how they feel about the pipeline, they do think it will actually be built.

Regional results:

A look at regional responses reveals British Columbians and Albertans are neighbours with nothing in common on this issue.

British Columbians see the decision as wrong more than two-to-one over Albertans (40% to 18%). Fewer than forty per cent (38%) of BC respondents say the Harper government’s decision was right, while 58 per cent of Albertans say the same.

Further east, the highest levels of opposition to the pipeline are in Quebec (40%) followed by those in Ontario (35%). The highest levels of support outside Alberta are in Saskatchewan and Manitoba (44%).

In BC – nearly one-quarter (25%) say the conditions “don’t even begin to address” concerns. In Alberta, about as many (28%) say the conditions are “more than enough” to address concerns.

Pipeline views by partisan allegiance:

Opinions on the pipeline decision split unsurprisingly along partisan lines. The issue is a winner among past Conservative Party voters (62%), although nearly one-fifth (16%) of past CPC voters say it’s the wrong decision and fully one-fifth (20%) say they aren’t sure.

Lack of certainty is higher among past Liberal and NDP voters: nearly one-third each (30% Liberal, 29% NDP) say they aren’t sure whether the pipeline decision was the right one. More than 40 per cent (42%) of past-Liberal voters say it was the wrong call, as do half of past-NDP voters (51%).

Click here for detailed provincial results, charts, tables and methodology

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