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Industry skeptical of environmentalist's pipeline poll

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Environmental groups released the results of a survey that found the majority of British Columbians are opposed to the proposed Northern Gateway pipeline, but some claim the poll is biased and are skeptical about the results.

Environmental groups released the results of a survey that found the majority of British Columbians are opposed to the proposed Northern Gateway pipeline, but some claim the poll is biased and are skeptical about the results.

“When British Columbians actually get the facts about oil tanker and pipeline proposals, their opposition is overwhelming,” said Will Horter, executive director of the Dogwood Initiative.

“Other polls in the past few months have only talked about pipelines with no mention of the crude oil supertankers that would inevitably come with them.”

The initiative commissioned a poll by Justason Market Intelligence on Feb. 5, which found nearly two-thirds of British Columbia residents (64 per cent) oppose Enbridge’s proposal to transport crude oil through B.C.’s northern inside coastal waters.

The survey conducted also found that 50 per cent strongly oppose the proposal.

The research firm concluded that opposition is down only marginally since February 2013, when 67 per cent of the respondents to the survey opposed the project.

In addition, B.C. residents’ strong opposition has not dipped below 50 per cent since the firm began tracking this issue in March 2012.

In response to these claims, the leader of the local open shop construction association said the poll is biased.

“You can do polls and get whatever outcome you want depending on how the questions are phrased,” said Philip Hochstein, president of the Independent Contractors and Businesses Association.

“Does this poll take into account the five conditions for construction that were laid out by the provincial government? Did they consider the loss of government tax revenue and the negative impact on the delivery of government services, such as education and health? This poll was designed to have this outcome.”

Justason Market Intelligence conducted a telephone-online hybrid poll of 600 adult British Columbians between Jan. 13 and 19, which asked several questions.

“Up until now, crude oil supertankers have not entered B.C.’s inside passage because of concerns about oil spills. The federal government is now considering allowing crude oil supertankers through these waters. Do you support or oppose allowing crude oil supertankers through B.C.’s northern inside coastal waters? Is that strongly or somewhat?”

After hearing or reading this question, 29 per cent of respondents showed support for Enbridge’s pipelines and tanker plan, which is up from 24 per cent in February 2013.

The poll found 12 per cent of the respondents strongly support the project, which is up from 9.0 per cent in February 2013.

According to Hochstein, this question is biased because it has a preamble that talks about oil spills.

He said that if the question was posed in terms of needed tax revenues and job creation the answer would be different.

“The last provincial election showed that the people of British Columbia are smarter than that,” said Hochstein.

“They understand the relationship between the creation of jobs, economic development and the need to get our products to the world-wide market.”

Justason Market Intelligence relied on a random telephone sample and online panel to collect data, which were weighted to match the regional distributions and demographic characteristics of British Columbian’s, such as age and gender.

The survey method has a margin of error of +/- 4.0 percentage points, 95 per cent of the time.

The research sponsors are the Dogwood Initiative, ForestEthics Advocacy, Northwest Institute for Bioregional Research and West Coast Environmental Law.

The B.C. Chamber of Commerce recently hired Maple Leaf Strategies to conduct a telephone survey of 1,050 adult British Columbians between Nov. 22 and 29, 2013.

It found 47 per cent of respondents support the Northern Gateway pipeline project.

The Maple Leaf poll found that 60 per cent are worried about losing out on economic benefits if it does not go ahead.

Maple Leaf’s live telephone survey has a margin of error of +/- 3.0 per cent, 19 times out of 20.

Another survey of 749 British Columbian’s who are aged 18 years and older was conducted online by Insights West between Nov. 12, 2013 and Nov. 15, 2013.

The survey found support for the proposed Northern Gateway project stands at 42 per cent.

The poll found opposition has dropped by 14 percentage points, from 61 per cent at the start of 2013 to 47 per cent in November.

The level of strong opposition to the project has also dropped to 29 per cent, which represents a decline of 9.0 percentage points since February.

Conversely, strong support has jumped to 16 per cent, which represents an increase of 5.0 per cent, over the same period.

While statistical margins of error are not applicable to online panels, Insights West assumed the survey has a margin of error of +/- 3.7 per cent, 19 times out of 20.

by Richard Gilbert

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