Sixty percent of British Columbians oppose Enbridge pipeline: poll

A Forum Research poll released today shows that 60 per cent of British Columbians are opposed to the Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline. The poll, the third by Forum Research conducted in 2012, shows that opposition to the pipeline has increased eight per cent since April’s poll and 14 per cent since January. Thirty one per cent of those polled were in favour and nine per cent were unsure. The poll was conducted on December 10 and surveyed 1051 British Columbians 18 years of age and older

The council of the Gitga’at First Nation commissioned the poll in response to Enbridge’s 'disappearing islands' ads depicting a map of the tanker route through the Douglas Channel that was missing many of the waterway’s islands.

Gitga’at councillor Marven Robinson said the results indicate to him that people throughout the province are starting to better understand the risks involved in the project, adding that Enbridge should have known better than to try to mislead the public.

“Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline cut its own throat,” he said. “It didn’t do (Enbridge) any good for sure, because anybody that knows the coast knows it’s not a clear path to the outer coast from Kitimat. They did that to themselves.”

The poll shows 40 per cent of British Columbians were previously aware of the Douglas Channel ad campaign, and of that group, 64 per cent thought the map was misleading. Fifty-eight per cent said the ad lowered their opinion of the project, while nine per cent said it improved their opinion and 32 per cent said it had no effect.

The Douglas Channel is part of the Gitga’at First Nation’s territorial waters. The ocean supplies roughly 40 per cent of the traditional diet, including salmon, crab, clams, seaweed and oysters.

Robinson said the more information that comes to light about the project, the more frightening it becomes, adding that one of his greatest concerns about having tankers in the channel has yet to be adequately addressed. After hearing a rumour last year that boats would have to keep a set speed to maintain steerage of the tankers, he questioned Enbridge officials about it at a meeting in Prince Rupert last year. He said he was told that not only was the rumour true, but that boats would be required to pick up speed around turns, instead of slowing down.

“Just right in front of us, I could look at a chart and say ok, there are three turns right in front of own community that are more than 90 degrees,” he said. “If you have to maintain a certain speed how are you going to do that if you have turns of more than 90 degrees?” Like with any vehicle, he said, the first thing to do in risky situations such as sharp turns or low visibility is to slow down.

“With the Gitga’at First Nation, there’s no benefit with the project running through our territory. It’s all risk to us.”

Gitga’at medias spokesperson Andrew Frank, meanwhile, said he thinks the BC government will have no choice but to pay attention to these numbers.

“BC Liberals are notorious for following polls closely, as are all political parties, and public opinion is pretty clear here.”

The poll also asked participants whom they voted for in the last provincial election, and answers were spread across the board, with 32 per cent voting Liberal, 29 per cent voting NDP and 12 per cent voting Conservative.

Frank credits First Nations groups and environmental organizations with raising public consciousness about the dangers of the pipeline, particularly with regard to the Douglas Channel ads.

“I think people see those sunny, water colour ads and go, something doesn’t quite add up, and that has certainly rubbed people the wrong way.”

He said incidents like this undoubtedly take a toll on public confidence, and that this poll shows public opinion is fairly settled on the opposition side, in spite of Enbridge’s $5M ad campaign.

“[Enbridge] has been trying to hone their message, but it looks like none of them have been sticking yet, at least as far as British Columbians are concerned.”

He also said that the company's oil spill record and the US Transportation Safety report" following their 2010 oil spill in Michigan may have had an impact on public opinion. 

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