Enbridge poll results questioned

Barnard Harbour on B.C.'s north coast (Photo: Dogwood Initiative, Flickr, Creative Commons)

A industry-friendly poll by the B.C. Chamber of Commerce and another from a more neutral source have both recently concluded that B.C. residents are split about 50-50 on the Enbridge pipeline. But some say that the results might be different if the poll questions clearly named tankers as an integral part of the project.

“I think they might have seen a different result,” says Brenda Gouglas of the Fort St. James Sustainability Group, referring to a recent poll by the B.C. Chamber of Commerce, which only mentions tankers in passing in a list of possible risks at the end of their survey.  “You’d be including the coastal folks that have that on their doorstep. That is the piece that is missing.”

And in a Vancouver Sun article last spring, Barb Justason of Justason Market Intelligence wrote, “If the researcher asks British Columbians about pipelines, about 50 per cent are relatively tolerant right now. If the researcher asks about pipelines and supertankers, tolerance diminishes.”

Justason confirmed that opinion in an interview with The Vancouver Observer this week.

“If you include tankers in the question, that changes the public’s opinion,” she said.

The initial question in last month’s Chamber of Commerce poll of 1050 British Columbians was as follows:

As you may know, the Northern Gateway Pipelines Project is a proposal to build an underground pipeline system between near Edmonton, Alberta and Kitimat, in northern BC. One pipeline will transport oil to Kitimat for export. A second pipeline will be used to import condensate (a product used to thin oil products for pipeline transport) to Alberta.     

Based on what you know to date, would you say that you generally support or oppose the Northern Gateway Pipelines Project?     

The response breakdown was as follows:

Strongly support

27%

Somewhat support

20%

Strongly oppose

32%

Somewhat oppose

12%

Don’t know

9%

  

In other words, 47% support the project and 44% oppose it. One-third strongly oppose it.

Two other questions asked the respondents to speculate, first on their level of support if the federal review panel approves the project, and second if Premier Clark’s four conditions are met (the preamble spells out those conditions). In the responses to those questions, support for the project increases to 57% and 63% respectively.

In addition, respondents are asked for their degree of agreement with these three statements:

  • The Northern Gateway Project has the potential to transform the economy of B.C.
  • The Northern Gateway Project is important to Canada’s national interests because it diversifies Canada away from relying only on oil exports to the United States.
  • British Columbia will lose out on significant economic benefits if the Northern Gateway Pipelines Project does not go ahead.

Agreement (combining ‘strongly’ and ‘somewhat’ agree) ranged between 60% and 70% for those three questions.

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