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Canadians split 50-50 on B.C.-Alberta pipeline spat, but more say project delays are wrong: poll

Feb. 13: It's been two weeks since the B.C. Government proposed banning increased bitumen shipments into its province in an effort to stall the Trans Mountain pipeline. As Tom Vernon reports, the pipeline fight is causing heated debate across the country.

Canadians are split right down the middle when it comes to who is in the right over the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion, a project that has helped to open a major rift between B.C. and Alberta.

But more of them say B.C. was wrong to try to delay the project in the first place, says a survey released by the Angus Reid Institute (ARI) on Thursday.

Coverage of the Trans Mountain pipeline on Globalnews.ca:

Last month, B.C.’s NDP government said it would consult on restricting flows of bitumen through the province.

Alberta’s NDP government responded by banning the import of B.C. wine — a move that is being challenged under the Canadian Free Trade Agreement (CFTA).

Nationally, an equal share of Canadians (50 per cent) supported B.C.’s argument on Trans Mountain — that the pipeline expansion could lead to a sevenfold increase in tanker traffic, and should be delayed or scrapped— and Alberta’s — that the project could create jobs and bring oil to foreign markets, boosting the Albertan and Canadian economies.

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“What you find among Canadians, depending on where they live and how they vote and how old they are, there is an equal amount of empathy or resonance for both sides’ arguments,” said Shachi Kurl, executive director of the Angus Reid Institute.

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But those results didn’t gel with responses that came when people were asked whether B.C.’s was right to try to delay the pipeline expansion.

Most survey respondents (55 per cent) said B.C. was wrong to do that, while 45 per cent said the province was right.

READ MORE: B.C. government to formally challenge Alberta’s wine ban

Opinions fluctuated by province when it came to people saying whether they thought B.C. was right or wrong in its actions on Trans Mountain.

Most people in Alberta (84 per cent), Saskatchewan (71 per cent), Manitoba (51 per cent), Ontario (56 per cent) Atlantic Canada (56 per cent) — and surprisingly, even B.C. (55 per cent) thought B.C. was wrong to delay the project. Only Quebec (59 per cent) thought the province was in the right.

Protesters in front of the TD tower in Vancouver rally against the Trans Mountain Pipeline expansion.
Protesters in front of the TD tower in Vancouver rally against the Trans Mountain Pipeline expansion. File photo

However, when asked who had the more persuasive argument in the dispute, majorities in B.C. (58 per cent), Manitoba (55 per cent), Quebec (64 per cent) and the Atlantic provinces (55 per cent) supported the West Coast province, while Alberta (82 per cent), Saskatchewan (70 per cent) and Ontario (53 per cent) leaned to Alberta’s side.

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The Angus Reid Institute chalked up this dissonance to the “eminence of the federal government on this issue.”

“While Quebec, historically more likely to claim provincial independence on issues involving the federal government, leans toward the right of provincial governments to stop pipelines from being built through their jurisdiction, the rest of the country is more federally inclined,” the survey said.

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The institute noted that B.C. and Atlantic Canada were “evenly divided” on the question of whether federal or provincial governments should have final say over a project like this one.

Respondents in Alberta (80 per cent), Saskatchewan (65 per cent), Manitoba (56 per cent) and Ontario (56 per cent) said the federal government should have final say on projects, while Quebec (62 per cent) said provincial governments should.

READ MORE: 2 arrested at Trans Mountain pipeline protest after activist chains herself to machinery

The survey also showed a split among people who voted for the Liberals in the last federal election.

Out of that group, 54 per cent of respondents said B.C. is wrong to delay the project, while 46 per cent say B.C. is right to do so.

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But this group swung the other way when asked which argument they found more persuasive. The survey showed 54 per cent of Liberal voters being swayed by B.C.’s argument, while 46 per cent were swayed by Alberta’s.

This division could spell trouble for the Liberals going forward, the institute said.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau answers a question during Question Period in the House of Commons in Ottawa, Tuesday, Jan.31, 2017.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau answers a question during Question Period in the House of Commons in Ottawa, Tuesday, Jan.31, 2017. Adrian Wyld/CP

The party took 17 B.C. seats in the 2015 federal election, and helped to propel them to a majority in an area that has been the “seat of some of the most vociferous opposition to the Trans Mountain project.”

METHODOLOGY: The Angus Reid Institute conducted an online survey from February 15 – 19, 2018, among a representative randomized sample of 2,501 Canadian adults who are members of the Angus Reid Forum. The sample plan included large oversamples in specific regions, which were then weighted down to provide a national snapshot. For comparison purposes only, a probability sample of this size with this sample plan would carry a margin of error of +/- 2.5 percentage points, 19 times out of 20. Discrepancies in or between totals are due to rounding. The survey was self-commissioned and paid for by ARI. Detailed tables are found at the end of this release.

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  • With files from Richard Zussman
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