Majority of British Columbians oppose Northern Gateway pipeline: poll

Results not surprising in survey commissioned by environmental groups

Nearly two thirds of British Columbians are opposed to the $6.5-billion Northern Gateway pipeline and the tankers it will bring to the northern coast, according to a poll commissioned by environmental groups.

Conducted between Jan. 13-19, the Justason Market Intelligence poll of 600 people also found that 64 per cent (the same number that are opposed) believe the project will definitely or probably be built. The margin of error of the combined telephone and online poll is plus or minus four per cent.

The survey showed that 92 per cent were aware of the project, which will carry diluted bitumen from the Alberta oilsands to Kitimat for transport by tanker overseas to open up Asian markets.

The poll was commissioned by the Dogwood Initiative, ForestEthics Advocacy, Northwest Institute for Bioregional Research and West Coast Environmental Law.

The Enbridge pipeline project received approval last month from a joint panel federal review of the National Energy Board and the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency.

Several First Nations and environmental groups have already launched court action against the panel decision.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s Conservative government has until the middle of this year to grant approval.

The findings showed that four times as many of those surveyed “strongly” oppose the project (50 per cent) than who “strongly” support the project (12 per cent). Another 17 per cent somewhat support the project.

The majority-opposition finding is not an unusual for a poll commissioned by environmental groups, which generally highlight in their questions the introduction of super tankers and the possibility of oil spills.

Dogwood Initiative executive director Will Horter said opposition is always stronger in polls when tankers are mentioned as part of the Northern Gateway project.

“People have very strong concerns about oil pipelines, but have deep, deep concerns about the oil tankers,” said Horter.

Business and industry-commissioned polls, which tend to highlight the economic benefits of Northern Gateway, usually find higher support for the project.

A B.C. Chamber of Commerce-commissioned poll released in December found nearly 50 per cent support for Northern Gateway.

The Justason poll also found that 51 per cent distrust the joint review panel process, while 32 per cent trusted it.

If Premier Christy Clark’s five conditions for supporting heavy oil being transported through B.C. are met, 49 per cent said they would be a lot or a little bit more supportive of the project.

The B.C. Chamber poll had found that should the project meet the five conditions, support increased to 63 per cent.

Clark’s conditions include the passing of an environmental review, creating world-leading marine and land spill prevention and recovery systems, addressing First Nations’ rights and receiving a fair share of economic benefits.

ghoekstra@vancouversun.com

Follow me: @Gordon_Hoekstra

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