Public opinion favours Trans Mountain expansion
Yuri Bilinsky, New Pathway – Ukrainian News.
The year 2019 saw some, although patchy, progress for the pipeline projects in western Canada. The Trans Mountain Pipeline extension has seen a new approval by the government in June and the resumption of construction and new legal challenges towards the end of year. Construction at the Coastal GasLink pipeline, which an indigenous group has protested against, has also resumed lately.
The public opinion towards pipeline projects in Canada is quite nuanced by regions and by projects in question. Abacus Data showed the cooling of opinions towards new pipeline capacity: the share of those with positive feelings dropped from 58% in 2014 to 44% in 2017.
At the same time, this cooling happened due to the growth of the share of undecided, from 20% to 36%, while the opposition was stable at around 21%. The opposition to the new capacity in 2017 was highest in BC (29%) and Quebec (29%) while positive feelings were much higher in Alberta (67%).
The Trans Mountain expansion project continues to enjoy the support of majority of respondents. Abacus Data reported in 2017 that 31% support the project while 27% can support it under certain circumstances.
An online survey by the Angus Reid Institute in August 2019 brought a similar result: 53% of Canadians wanted the federal government to complete the project.
Canseco’s survey, published in December 2019, showed that the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion was favored even in British Columbia where 56% agreed with the federal government’s decision to re-approve to project, while 35% disagreed, and 10% were undecided. The federal government’s involvement in the project was the critical factor for the improvement of opinions by British Columbians towards the project, according to Mario Canseco, the president of Vancouver-based polling firm Research Co. (ctvnews.ca).
At the same time, energy literacy remains low in Canada, Susan Riddell Rose, President and CEO at Perpetual Energy Inc. out of Calgary, AB, told New Pathway – Ukrainian News. The benefits of oil and gas are generally not understood by Canadians “partly because oil and gas are readily available and the industry works on the background of everyday lives of Canadians,” she said.
Riddell Rose called “misleading” the information from the opposition to the oil and gas industry on the industry’s environmental impact. She said that in the recent years there has been “a very purposeful focus on coming together” in the industry and putting environmental improvements aside as competitive. She noted that the broad collaborative approach through organizations like the Canadian Oilsands Innovation Alliance and Natural Gas Innovation Fund has put the Canadian oil and gas at the top of the world stage as far as the footprint in terms of CO2 emissions, and land and water use.
Riddell Rose also said that the indigenous communities’ opinions about the pipelines should not be “painted with one brush” and that the industry has had “a hard time” dispelling the belief that all indigenous communities oppose pipelines.
Assembly of First Nations (AFN) National Chief Perry Bellegarde told NP-UN that there are different positions on the part of different First Nations on the Trans Mountain expansion. Some First Nations support it and would like to look at being involved in the project’s economy and at equity ownership. But those Nations are just as concerned about the land and the water as the others, he said. Some First Nations are still opposed to the project, noted Bellegarde.
He said that the First Nations need to be engaged “sooner than later” into finding the common ground about the expansion. Bellegarde said that things are starting to “move in the right way” but that the information about planned emergency response to spills and other mitigating circumstances needs to be explained clearly to the First Nations.