Two In Three Canadians Now Say B.C. Govt Wrong To Block Trans Mountain: Poll

The reassertion of jurisdictional issues in the battle between B.C. and Alberta over the completion of the Trans Mountain pipeline project is “sharpening public opinion on the matter,” according to a new poll by Angus Reid Institute.

But, while more Canadians appear to be losing patience with the B.C. government’s delay tactics, British Columbians themselves “remain anxious, troubled and alarmed by the risks associated with a tanker spill in Vancouver’s Burrard Inlet,” according to the findings.

“They’re also largely unconvinced that current spill response plans are up to the mark.”

That said, the vast majority of British Columbians — including one-third who currently oppose the project —say a court ruling that its provincial government does not have the constitutional authority to block the project would be enough to give in and allow the pipeline to be twinned.

Political attempts to strong-arm B.C. — such as Alberta cutting back oil exports to the province or Ottawa withholding infrastructure dollars — appear to be less effective in getting those currently opposed to the project to say ‘yes,’ according to Angus Reid.

Two-in-three Canadians (65 per cent) now say the B.C. government is wrong to try to block the pipeline, a 10-percentage-point increase since February.

The possibility of an oil spill off the coast of Metro Vancouver looms large in the minds of B.C. residents, saying by a margin of five-to-one that it is the single biggest concern they have about the Trans Mountain project.

Asked which leaders in the conflict are doing a good or bad job, just over four-in-10 Canadians say Rachel Notley has done a good job (43 per cent). Fewer say this of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (36 per cent) and B.C. Premier John Horgan (30 per cent).

British Columbians are deeply divided on the overall risks and benefits of the pipeline. Some 35 per cent say the environmental risk outweighs the economic benefit. The same number (35 per cent) say the opposite, and the rest (30 per cent) say the risks and benefits are about equal.

Pipeline support is increasing

The events of the past two weeks have arguably done more to focus national attention on Kinder Morgan Canada Limited’s Trans Mountain pipeline project than the last two years or more. The company’s ultimatum demanding delays end and hurdles to project completion be cleared by May 31 prompted Trudeau to reassert the federal government’s jurisdiction on the file, reminding opponents that his cabinet had already approved it. This had little effect on Horgan’s legal and regulatory attempts to stop the pipeline that runs from Alberta to the British Columbia Coast from being twinned, however.

The stakes were further raised at a three-way meeting between Trudeau, Horgan and Notley on Sunday. The outcome: continued stalemate — with the added announcement that Trudeau would pursue financial and legislative avenues to keep Kinder Morgan from walking away.

Against this backdrop, the proportion of Canadians who say the government of British Columbia is wrong to oppose the pipeline has risen significantly — by nine percentage points — since the Angus Reid Institute last asked in February:

Overall support for the Trans Mountain project has also grown in the last two months, from 49 per cent in February to a majority now of 55 per cent.

British Columbia’s view: More support than opposition for Trans Mountain

The B.C. government has been steadfast in its opposition to the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion. The governing NDP campaigned on killing the project, and noted that it would use “every tool” it had to stop the project after assuming office in 2017.

This opposition however, has not been held by a majority of B.C. residents in reporting done by the Angus Reid Institute. In February, 48 per cent of residents supported the project compared to 40 per cent who opposed. Now, as the debate has heated up, support has risen to 54 per cent while opposition has dropped to 38 per cent.

Support hovers around 50 per cent both in Metro Vancouver and on Vancouver Island, rising to six-in-10 in the rest of the province.