Environment is top election issue for Metro Vancouver residents: survey

Metro Vancouver voters say the environment is the most important issue this election, according to a recent survey. File photo

There is a shift happening in what matters most to Metro Vancouver voters.

According to a recent survey, the environment is the top issue among residents heading into the federal election, coming in ahead of topics, such as the economy and health care, which have long been a high priority for Metro Vancouver voters.

The report, compiled by the Mustel Group, FleishmanHillard HighRoad and the Greater Vancouver Board of Trade, surveyed voters and businesses in Metro Vancouver. It found that nearly half of local residents polled cited the environment as a top election issue, followed by the economy and jobs (27 per cent), affordability (21 per cent) and various social issues (21 per cent).

The economy was the top issue among members of the business community, 45 per cent of whom listed it as the most important topic ahead of the environment (37 per cent), taxes (28 per cent) and affordability (21 per cent).

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“Heading into the Oct. 21 federal election, the dual crises of affordability and climate change — and how parties plan to strike a balance between the two issues — is shaping up to be the ballot box question,” the report reads.

The Liberal Party under Justin Trudeau has focused heavily on climate change, but there has been immense public scrutiny as to whether its plan has worked. According to the study, 49 per cent of those polled believe the government is on the wrong path in addressing climate change.

In 2019, the Liberal Party declared climate change a national emergency. The previous year, the Liberal government purchased the Trans Mountain pipeline in an attempt to push forward an expansion of the project, which has raised concerns among environmental groups and First Nations.

The Federal Court of Appeal recently allowed six challenges of the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion focusing on Indigenous consultation to proceed while dismissing several claims centred on environmental concerns.

Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer said last year that he would build the pipeline by using constitutional powers and banning foreign funding from being used to oppose the project. He has also said Canada needs a coast-to-coast energy corridor where it would be easy to build pipelines and power lines.

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When the pipeline expansion was given the green light in June, NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh said concerns raised by Indigenous communities regarding the project have not yet been addressed.

The researchers also found a significant difference between residents and businesses when it comes to their stance on continuing the development of oil and gas resources. Among businesses, 69 per cent were in favour of developing oil and gas resources while also investing in strategies to transition to alternative renewable energy sources, compared to 53 per cent of Metro Vancouver residents.

“Federal parties vying for seats in this battleground region will be challenged to show voters that they have the right plan to protect the environment while, at the same time, protecting jobs and addressing the high cost of living,” FleishmanHillard HighRoad senior vice-president Anna Lilly said.

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Almost half of those surveyed believe people in Metro Vancouver have different priorities compared to other parts of the country, saying the region puts a great emphasis on environmental issues and has been hit harder by escalating home prices.

But unlike during the municipal and provincial elections, when housing affordability was the clear-cut top issue for Metro Vancouver voters, the cost of living ranks third for the general public and fourth for businesses.

“Metro Vancouverites are clear in their desire to see governments at all levels do more to address housing affordability, but they are just as concerned that federal decision-makers aren’t moving fast enough to address the growing threat of climate change,” Mustel Group principal Evi Mustel said.

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The report comes on the same day that Green Party Leader Elizabeth May unveiled her party’s election platform. The plan is not only focused on the environment but does view all issues through the lens of the climate crisis.

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The platform is full of big ideas. The Greens are proposing a country where by 2030 all homes and businesses are powered by renewable energy, all new vehicles and public transit are electric and a majority of the food we eat is locally sourced.

The plan also calls for an end to fossil fuel subsidies, abolishing post-secondary tuition fees and bringing in national pharmacare. There is no cost estimate for the plan yet but the Parliamentary Budget Office is expected to have the numbers crunched within a week.

The full survey can be found here.

Methodology: This survey included a random sample of Metro Vancouver adults, 18 years of age or older (n=600) and a survey of Greater Vancouver Board of Trade members (n=261). The survey was completed online from Aug. 20 to Sept. 3, 2019.

— With files from Global News’ Amanda Connolly and the Canadian Press

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