Majority of Canadians in all regions but Quebec believe lack of oil pipelines is a crisis: poll

Majority of Canadians in all regions but Quebec believe lack of oil pipelines is a crisis: poll
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EDMONTON — Nearly two-thirds of Canadians believe that the lack of pipeline space to move oil constitutes a crisis in Canada, according to new polling from the Angus Reid Institute.

The research comes as Alberta is on the cusp of a provincial election and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s governing Liberals will face the electorate in October. There’s little doubt that, whether pipeline capacity constitutes an objective crisis or not, it’s top of mind for voters in many parts of the country, and especially in Alberta. On Monday, Brian Jean, the former leader of Alberta’s Wildrose party, who’s since been replaced by Jason Kenney, who formed a new party out of Alberta’s conservatives, wrote that “Canada is broken.”

“None of our political leaders understand the current anger of Albertans,” Jean wrote. “Albertans want a ‘Mad as hell’ Party, that isn’t going to take it anymore.”

All this conspires to make pipeline politics and the carbon tax two of the most contentious issues, in both the Alberta and federal election. In recent weeks, two truck convoys had been planning to drive from Alberta to Ottawa over several days in February to demonstrate support for pipeline construction. One of those, organized by Rally 4 Resources, has since been cancelled. The other, affiliated with Yellow Vests Canada, is still intending to go ahead.

When Trudeau visited Regina last week, steel worker Courtland Klein, wearing an “I love Canadian pipelines” T-shirt, confronted him over Trans Mountain. “We’re just getting hosed on our oil something terribly,” said Klein. “Get this pipeline in the ground. Get it out to the coast and you’re going to have a whole bunch more money that you can spend like a drunken farm wife after harvest in New York City.”

The lack of pipeline capacity is a major factor in the price differential between the price per barrel of Western Canadian Select — the oil from Alberta’s oilsands — and other grades of oil. This differential, when it bottomed out in late November, was costing the economy as much as $80 million per day, said NDP premier Rachel Notley.

“These numbers start to really indicate that it is no longer, that polling on this issue, and the numbers we’ve seen on this issue are no longer solely driven by the Alberta-Saskatchewan viewpoint and that, when we look at the question of whether it’s a crisis or whether we look at a question of priority, we’re starting to see that there is a more pan-Canadian view,” said Shachi Kurl, the executive director of the Angus Reid Institute. “The mushy middle, or those that don’t necessarily have an opinion on the issue, their views are actually starting to harden and gel.”

None of our political leaders understand the current anger

But the poll also finds that there are strong regional disparities and that, in other regions, issues such as cost of living is top-of-mind, and not pipeline capacity. Still, even in Quebec, 40 per cent of respondents said new oil pipeline capacity is a crisis, and in B.C., 53 per cent agreed.

The perception that it’s a crisis is starkest in Alberta, where 87 per cent of respondents agreed and in Saskatchewan, where 74 per cent of respondents agreed. And while pipeline politics have dominated the news, Canadians mostly support both Trans Mountain — an expansion project between Edmonton and Burnaby, B.C. — and Energy East, the now defunct line from Hardisty, Alta., to Saint John, N.B. Fifty-three per cent of respondents support both, while just 19 per cent oppose both; 17 per cent are unsure.

“The outlier on this issue is Quebec,” the report says. “Support leans heavily in the direction of building both pipelines in every region outside of that province.”

Kurl said for the Trudeau Liberals, this file will continue to be difficult. “For so long this debate has been characterized as one of energy and the environment,” she said. “This is a big deal and this is about more than just a pipeline, this is now I think being viewed within the framework of Canada’s ability to vouchsafe, at least in the short term, its economic future.”

Further divisions exist, too. Fifty-four per cent of Canadians between 18 and 34 years of age agree this is not a crisis, whereas 67 per cent of Canadians who are older than 55 believe that it is a crisis.

When it comes to perceptions of the federal government, 63 per cent of respondents in western Canada — British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba — say the federal government has hurt the province’s economy in the “past couple of years.” And, while Canadians from Ontario and the east tend to agree that the west has the right amount of economic influence and political power, unsurprisingly, those in the west disagree, and believe they have too little power: 68 per cent in B.C., 77 per cent in Alberta, 75 per cent in Saskatchewan and 61 per cent in Manitoba.

The poll, conducted online from Dec. 21, 2018 to Jan. 3. 2019, drew from a sample of 4,024 Canadian adults who are members of the Angus Reid Forum, an online group of opinion-havers. The margin of error is +/- 2.5 per cent 19 times out of 20.

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