Type “British Columbians overwhelmingly reject” into Google’s search bar, and the first recommended search string completes the sentence with “tar sands pipeline.”
One of the first sites to come up under that search is an environmentaldefence.ca post that states – correctly – that the majority of those who turned out to the Ministerial Panel on the pipeline proposal spoke against the planned twinning project.
But according to a number of recent public opinion polls on pipelines, an overwhelming majority of British Columbians don’t, in fact, oppose the project.
A just-released Ipsos Reid survey of 1,000 Canadians found that 54% of British Columbians actually support the Trudeau government’s decision to approve the Trans Mountain expansion, while 26% disagreed with the decision and 20% were neutral.
More broadly, across Canada, 37% of Canadians agreed with the decision on Trans Mountain, while 20% disagreed.
Overall, the survey found support across Canada for the Trudeau government's decisions on three pipeline proposals: Northern Gateway, which was rejected, and the Trans Mountain expansion and Line 3 replacement, which were approved.
However, the polling also showed a high percentage of Canadians who were undecided or neutral on the three pipelines – between 43% and 45%.
The Ipsos Reid poll was commissioned by the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP), which critics might suggest got the polling it paid for.
But an Angus Reid poll in June also found more British Columbians in favour of the National Energy Board’s decision to approve the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion than those opposed to it.
That poll found 41% of British Columbians agreed with the NEB’s decision, 34% disagreed and 25% were undecided.
In March 2016, a Forum Research poll of 1,567 Canadians found majority support for all three pipeline proposals – Trans Mountain, Energy East and Northern Gateway.
According to that poll, respondents said they thought pipelines were safer than moving oil by rail. However, while it found the majority of Canadians supported the Trans Mountain expansion, it found a majority opposed it in B.C.
According to the Forum Research poll, 52% of British Columbians disagreed with the expansion proposal, 41% agreed and 6% were undecided. That same poll found greater support for the expansion Canada-wide. It found 51% of Canadians approved of the Trans Mountain expansion, 34% disapproved and 6% were neutral.
Not surprisingly, a poll in Burnaby, where the pipeline terminates and which would see increased oil tanker traffic, found strong opposition.
As for First Nations, it appears support for the project has grown since the project was approved. In a December 15 press release, Kinder Morgan Canada says that, since the project was formally approved on November 29, 12 more First Nations have confirmed their support for the project.
The company says it now has 51 First Nations – 10 in Alberta and 41 in B.C. – that have signed mutual benefits agreements worth a total of $400 million.