On pipelines and protests, leadership is lacking across the board

On pipelines and protests, leadership is lacking across the board

By Shachi Kurl, Executive Director

Let us momentarily set aside the hourly updates from the front lines of the anti-Coastal GasLink blockades that have clogged our ports, obstructed our rail freight and shut down our bridges to ask ourselves: How in the name of whatever higher power you want to choose, did we get here?

Indigenous rights, reconciliation and, indeed, emerging questions over whether all First Nations voices are being heard, are important and significant parts of the story, but not the whole tale. We are also a nation today so utterly demarcated along political and regional lines when it comes to resource development projects that it takes but a moment to tear ourselves apart, with little sign we might reunite.

Just four months ago, the nation’s election results suggested two-thirds of the country said “yes” to political parties campaigning for energy projects, while the same number voted for parties advocating carbon taxation. Liberals, who advocated both, claimed the thinnest of mandates to bring both about. That was then. This is now.

New public opinion data from the Angus Reid Institute shows just how polarized we are on the energy file. At first glance, the national numbers don’t betray this: On the proposed Teck Frontier mine, nearly half the country (49 per cent) says it is supportive. On TransMountain, just over half say yes (55 do so) and on the Coastal GasLink, again, about half endorse the project aimed at carrying natural gas from northern British Columbia to the Pacific coast, where it is mean to be exported to Asia for billions of dollars.

But a closer look at how opinions cleave along political lines shows this overall half-way support is driven almost entirely by the vehement, fervent backing of those who voted for the Conservative Party. Between 80 and 90 per cent of past CPC voters champion each project. Almost equally forceful is the opposition to each by past NDP and Bloc Québécois voters. This is turn creates regional divisions wherein massive majorities in Alberta wish to see all three projects proceed, while those in Quebec are passionate about seeing them stopped.

For the rest of this piece, please view it on the Ottawa Citizen’s site where it was initially published.