The majority of Albertans support tougher climate-change policies, even if those policies increase costs for struggling oil companies, and half back an economy-wide carbon tax. Those are two findings in a new poll from EKOS that surveyed Albertans about early environmental moves made by the province's governing New Democrats.
The poll comes at a time when Premier Rachel Notley is in New York, speaking with foreign investors about her goal of increasing environmental regulations in the province. Speaking with reporters on Tuesday, she reiterated a commitment to opt out of a national cap-and-trade plan proposed by federal NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair if his party wins power in October. Ms. Notley said she would prefer to develop a climate plan in Alberta that would keep money in her province.
"We know in Alberta that we need to take credible action on climate change in order to enhance the welcome that our products receive in markets outside Alberta," she said on a conference call from New York. "We're unlikely to be terribly interested in a plan that moves capital outside Alberta."
The poll commissioned by the Pembina Institute, a Calgary-based think-tank that advocates for sustainable energy policy, may explain some of the political reasons for Ms. Notley's decision not to support a national cap-and-trade plan for Alberta.
According to the poll, half of those surveyed supported a provincial carbon tax, with 38 per cent opposed. The province currently levies a fee on industrial polluters that surpass government targets. Support for the carbon tax didn't decrease when the cost to individuals was highlighted, the poll found. Support for the tax increased to 76 per cent when respondents were given the option of directing tax revenue to projects cutting emissions in the oil and gas sector.
"Two-thirds of Albertans want action," said Simon Dyer, Pembina's Alberta director. "Albertans are more nuanced than they're given credit for and they're having substantive, serious discussions about the pace and scale of oil-sands development."
The EKOS poll surveyed 1,855 Albertans from Aug. 28 to Sept. 10 via telephone and online. The poll has a margin of error of 2.28 per cent, 19 times out of 20.
Nearly half of Albertans surveyed, 48 per cent, said that the province's oil-sands industry is currently large enough or should shrink. Only 33 per cent supported increasing the size of oil-sands development, while 8 per cent had no opinion.
The poll results were sent to Andrew Leach, the head of Alberta's climate-change panel. After touring the province, the five-member panel will begin submitting recommendations to the provincial government in mid-October to guide the creation of a new climate-change strategy.
Mr. Leach said that he was interested in comparing the poll data to other information the panel has received, but he cautioned that the Albertans surveyed were tackling difficult questions where their answers could have an unexpected impact. "It is a piece of evidence of how Albertans respond to trade-offs, and that was one of the things I liked," he added.