The construction of the Trans Mountain pipeline has been stalled for years over environmental concerns and issues regarding consultations with Indigenous Canadian people. In May 2018, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced the government purchased the pipeline and vowed to get it built.
Late last year, Alberta cut the amount of oil the industry is allowed to produce, amid lower oil prices and a limited capacity to physically move the oil out of the province.
The poll found that while more Albertans called the pipeline issues a “crisis” (87 per cent of Albertan respondents), Quebecers were the least worried about it (40 per cent).
In B.C., the number of respondents was split almost evenly (51 per cent called it a crisis), while Atlantic Canada and Manitoba were more in line with the national average (58 per cent). Saskatchewan (74 per cent) was more closely aligned with Alberta.
“We see real divisions based on where people live in Canada,” Shachi Kurl, Angus Reid’s executive director, told Global News.
That’s going to play a major factor in the upcoming elections, she explained.
“It’s divided along regional lines so it becomes very difficult to have a unifying message or a unifying theme on this on this issue.”
Canadians are also divided on other aspects of the pipeline issue; nationally, just under half of respondents (46 per cent) said the government needs to give more attention to the oil and gas industry, but in Alberta that jumps to 78 per cent, and in Quebec it drops to 25 per cent.
“It speaks to how fractured we are nationally,” Kurl said.
But Kurl said she thinks the numbers show that the needle is moving in favour of the pipelines.
She said in previous years Ontario and Atlantic Canada have been more ambivalent toward oil and gas issues, but in this poll, the majority of respondents in those areas appear pro-pipeline.
“The takeaway from the whole poll is that the majority of Canadians think it’s a crisis,” said Nelson Wiseman, a political science professor at the University of Toronto.
That could be because there has been more media coverage of the issues over the past year, Wiseman explained.
Kurl said the influence of the Western provinces in Canada is another divisive issue across the country. While those in the West think their own provinces don’t have a loud enough voice in Ottawa, Eastern provinces say the opposite.
While these aren’t surprising results, they are telling, Kurl said, as demographics across the country are shifting.
WATCH: Expert says natural gas industry in ‘full blown crisis’
“The West is actually — in terms of people power — is taking more precedence than places such as Atlantic Canada and even Quebec if you look at growth rates,” she said, referencing Statistics Canada data.
She said that the question of “What does it look like in terms of the power that the West holds over the next 20 years?” will be an important one going forward — especially concerning oil and gas issues.
The Angus Reid Institute polled 4,024 Canadians between Dec. 21, 2018, to Jan. 3, 2019. The margin of error is +/- 2.5 per cent, 19 times out of 20.