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Politics Keystone support a result of Alberta efforts, Redford says

Alberta Premier Alison Redford is shown during an interview in her office at the Alberta Legislature in Edmonton, Alberta on Wednesday April 17, 2013.

JASON FRANSON/THE CANADIAN PRESS

Alberta's advocacy efforts in Washington are partly to thank for the results of a recent poll showing broad support for the Keystone XL pipeline, Premier Alison Redford says.

A Nanos Research poll, published Monday, showed 68 per cent of Canadians and 74 per cent of Americans support or somewhat support the proposed pipeline from Alberta down to the U.S. Gulf Coast. When asked about the poll, Ms. Redford said her government's repeated trips promoting the project deserve some of the credit.

"We think this is very good news … and I think that has been a part of the information campaign we've been a part of to be able to tell the true story about everything, [including] the infrastructure or safety issues, the pipeline issues, the environmental issues," said Ms. Redford, who made her fourth trip as Premier to Washington earlier this month.

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Keystone has become something of a flashpoint in the battle between environmentalists and the energy sector. Ms. Redford says it's a critical project for oil-exporting Alberta, while environmentalists fear it will spur expansion of the oil sands. The battle has ensured that Keystone XL is becoming a household name, according to Monday's poll. In Canada, 92 per cent of respondents had heard of the pipeline, up from 80 per cent in another Nanos poll last summer. In Monday's poll, 75 per cent of American respondents said they'd heard of the project.

"One thing that we can say is that all the activities and the debate has resulted in a higher level of profile for the pipeline," pollster Nik Nanos said in an interview. "I think it'd probably be fair to say it's the most famous pipeline in energy history in Canada and the United States."

And those who have heard about the pipeline have mostly made up their minds. Among American respondents, 4.7 per cent said they weren't yet sure if they support the pipeline or not.

"As we move forward, we know it's getting an awful lot of attention right now in the United States, and that's good, because it allows us the opportunity to share the story. I think that we're making good progress, it's very good news and we'll keep being optimistic about that," Ms. Redford told reporters Monday in Sherwood Park, Alta., after she attended an announcement on a program allowing seniors to defer property tax payments.

The poll's results also mark an improvement in support for the project, with previous Nanos Research polling showing Canadians were split on whether they backed Keystone XL. Monday's poll shows the pipeline now has support across Canada. British Columbia – home of another controversial proposed pipeline, the Northern Gateway project – led the nation with 75 per cent supporting or somewhat supporting the Keystone line, more than the prairies. Quebec had the lowest combined support, at 58 per cent, and the highest proportion of people opposed or somewhat opposed, at 35 per cent. Quebec was also the only region in Canada or the U.S. that, in the poll, said reducing greenhouse gases is more important than North America eliminating its dependency on oil imports.

As awareness of the Keystone XL pipeline has increased, there's been a "marginal improvement" in support for the project in Canada, Mr. Nanos said, adding Ms. Redford and the other politicians making regular trips to push for the pipeline's support have likely had some impact in swaying opinion. "I think it's pretty clear that the priority that Canadian political leaders have put on it has helped in terms of the positive perception of the pipeline in Canada. It's shown that it is a priority," Mr. Nanos said, later adding a warning that high approval figures don't mean the pipeline will be approved. "Canadians have to be very cautious. This issue has not been decided," he said.

The results came from two Nanos surveys – one of Americans, one of Canadians – conducted in late March and early April. The results are considered accurate within 3.1 per cent, 19 times out of 20, though regional figures would have a higher margin of error.

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