A majority of Canadians back the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion that has sparked a fight between British Columbia and Alberta but few want to see the government devote public money to backstopping the project, a new poll indicates.
More than two-thirds of Canadians support, or somewhat support, enlarging the capacity of the Trans Mountain pipeline that runs between Alberta’s oil sands and ports in British Columbia, a Globe and Mail poll conducted by Nanos Research says. Forty-seven per cent of respondents said they support it and another 20 per cent said they somewhat support it.
The poll, conducted April 28 to May 4, found 16 per cent oppose the expansion and 11 per cent somewhat oppose it. Six per cent were unsure.
At the same time, two-thirds of Canadians are opposed to using tax dollars to help salvage the oil pipeline project.
The future of the Trans Mountain expansion is up in the air after opposition from the B.C. government. British Columbia is asking the province’s highest court to affirm it has the authority to restrict bitumen shipments that cross its borders − a measure that threatens the future of the Trans Mountain project.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has pledged financial backing to ensure that the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion is completed. This came after pipeline owner Kinder Morgan suspended all “non-essential” spending on Trans Mountain a week ago and set a May 31 deadline to keep the project alive.
Canadians are “not hot on government money funding the project,” pollster Nik Nanos says.
Forty-seven per cent of respondents said they oppose “providing tax payers dollars to Kinder Morgan to expand the Trans Mountain pipeline” while another 20 per cent said they were somewhat opposed. Ten per cent said they would support this while 17 per cent said they would somewhat support it. Six per cent were unsure.
At the same time, there’s a sizable degree of concern over how the fracas between Alberta and British Columbia is hurting Canada.
Angered at B.C.’s intransigence, the Alberta government has given itself new powers to restrict how fossil fuels are shipped out of the province, a potentially powerful weapon to throttle B.C.’s petroleum supply and put pressure on the province to stop opposing Trans Mountain.
Thirty-five per cent of respondents said they are concerned, and another 30 per cent said they are somewhat concerned, that the conflict will negatively affect how Canada functions as a federation.
Nineteen per cent said they were not concerned and 14 per cent said they were somewhat not concerned about the feud’s impact on the federation. Two per cent were unsure.
Mr. Nanos said one of the poll’s key findings is the feeling among Canadians that the Trans Mountain dispute has put “stress on the federation.”
He said public opinion suggests Mr. Trudeau, who strongly backs the Trans Mountain project, has the support of many Canadians.
“It gives him a mandate to move forward but there should be a big cautionary note on this,” Mr. Nanos said. “This has put stress on the federation and we have to make sure we have a balanced approach that reconciles economic and environmental aspirations. I think if there is one lesson from this it’s that average Canadians think we could probably do better just in the decision-making process.”
The polling shows British Columbians and Quebeckers are less likely to back the Trans Mountain expansion. “If you look at the regional variations, there’s kind of a Quebec-British Columbia coalition which is more likely to be environmentally sensitive, which is more likely to [support] provinces having a greater say in things,” he said.
The Nanos survey of 1,000 Canadians was commissioned by The Globe and Mail and CTV News. The hybrid random telephone-online survey was conducted between April 28 and May 4, and is accurate to within 3.1 percentage points 19 times out of 20.