December 18, 2013

Support growing for Northern Gateway pipeline

Two surveys of British Columbians have found that support for the construction of Enbridge's proposed Northern Gateway pipeline is on the rise, but opinion is almost equally divided and there is strong opposition to the project.

“This poll confirms what we’ve been hearing anecdotally: British Columbians know what’s at stake here and, while they fiercely protect our province’s Super Natural brand, they don’t want to see this opportunity slip away,” said John Winter, president and CEO of the BC Chamber of Commerce.

“This isn’t just a pipeline at stake –it’s B.C.’s future as a have or have-not investment jurisdiction.”

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

The consulting firm found 47 per cent of respondents support the $5.5 billion Northern Gateway pipeline project.

In addition, the poll found support of the project increases to 57 per cent if the federal Joint Review Panel approves the project.

The panel is currently assessing the environmental effects of the proposed project and is reviewing the application under both the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act and the National Energy Board Act.

Public hearings for the project were held between Jan. 10 and June 24.

The panel will submit its report to the federal government by Dec. 31, 2013.

The final decision on whether or not to approve the project will be made by the federal government.

Another survey of 749 British Columbian’s 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 stood at 42 per cent.

“We did the survey out of our own interest in the project,” said Mario Canseco, vice president, public affairs at Insights West.

“We did a survey in February, but this time we wanted to see how the level of peoples interest in the drawbacks and benefits of the project has changed. It was an opportunity to test how everything that has changed politically and Enbridge’s new campaign has changed opinion.”

In contrast to the Maple Leaf survey, Insight West compares the 42 per cent support figure from the November online survey to previous results, which allows a baseline to be established.

As a result, Insight West found a seven-per cent increase in support for the project compared to a poll conducted in February.

More importantly, the Insights West poll reported the findings on the opposition to the project, which was not done by the chamber of commerce.

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.

Canseco argued that this shift in opinion is the result of three main factors:

1) The decisive victory of the Liberal party on May 14 in the provincial election; 2) The launch of a new Enbridge advertising campaign, and; 3) The derailment and deadly explosion of rail oil tank cars on July 6 in Lac-Mégantic, Quebec.

“British Columbians continue to be of two minds on the Northern Gateway,” said Canseco.

“There is a large proportion of the population that remains concerned with the possibility of oil spills and environmental problems, but the argument about economic benefits has gained traction over the past few months.”

Insights West found respondents were well aware of the benefits of the proposed Northern Gateway Pipeline, in particular job creation (86 per cent), economic growth (86 per cent), and new capital investment (82 per cent). In addition, the number of respondents who said the pipeline will benefit First Nations communities increased to 53 per cent in November from 40 per cent in February.

The Maple Leaf poll found that 59 per cent of the people in B.C. believe the project is important to Canada’s national interest and 60 per cent are worried about losing out on economic benefits if it doesn’t go ahead.

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

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