Public support for the proposed Northern Gateway pipeline is currently low in British Columbia, but about one-in-four opponents could be swayed by the right environmental and economic approach, a new Angus Reid Public Opinion poll has found.

In the online survey of a representative provincial sample of 804 British Columbian adults, seven-in-ten respondents (71%) say they have followed news stories related to two proposals to build and expand pipelines in British Columbia “very closely” or “moderately closely.”

The survey allowed respondents to see a map that shows the proposed location of the Enbridge Northern Gateway, a new pipeline from Alberta to British Columbia’s north coast that would export oil on tankers to China. Only seven per cent of respondents completely support the proposal, while 27 per cent support it, but could change their minds based on economic or environmental considerations.

Across British Columbia, more than a third of respondents (35%) completely oppose the Enbridge Northern Gateway, while one-in-four (24%) oppose the proposal, but could change their minds based on economic or environmental considerations.

The proportion of complete opponents to the Enbridge Northern Gateway outranks that of complete supporters by a 5-to-1 margin. However, half of British Columbians (51%) are currently taking a moderate position of support or opposition that could change depending on specific considerations.

Respondents who voiced complete or partial opposition to the Northern Gateway were asked if they would be more likely to support the project if any of the five bottom-line requirements outlined by the British Columbia government are met. About a third of opponents to the Northern Gateway say they would be more likely to back the project if world-leading marine oil-spill prevention and response systems are established (37%), if on-land spill response is enhanced to world-leading standards (35%), if an environmental review process is completed (34%), and if clear fiscal and economic benefits to British Columbia are outlined (32%).

Respondents were also asked about the moratorium on offshore oil and gas exploration and drilling in the north and central coast of British Columbia, which has been in place since the 1970s and is interpreted by some people as a ban on oil tankers in the north and central coast. More than a third of respondents (35%) think oil tankers should “definitely” or “probably” be allowed in BC’s north and central coast, while half (51%) would “definitely” or “probably” ban these vessels from the area.

A separate proposal to expand an existing Kinder Morgan pipeline that carries oil from Alberta to Vancouver Harbour is supported by 37 per cent of British Columbians (9% completely, 28% with reservations), and opposed by half of respondents (25% completely, 25% with reservations).

Across British Columbia, 37 per cent of respondents are satisfied with the stance taken by Premier and BC Liberals leader Christy Clark on the issue of pipelines, while 43 per cent are dissatisfied. A similar proportion of British Columbians (35%) is content with the position of Official Opposition and BC New Democratic Party (NDP) leader Adrian Dix, while 27 per cent are not happy with his stance. The rating is significantly lower for Green Party leader Jane Sterk (20%) and BC Conservative leader John Cummins (14%).

Full Report, Detailed Tables and Methodology (PDF)


Mario Canseco, Vice President, Angus Reid Public Opinion
+877 730 3570

Methodology: From July 30 to August 1, 2012, Angus Reid Public Opinion conducted an online survey among 804 randomly selected British Columbia adults who are Angus Reid Forum panellists. The margin of error—which measures sampling variability—is +/- 3.5%. The results have been statistically weighted according to the most current education, age, gender and region Census data to ensure a sample representative of the entire adult population of British Columbia. Discrepancies in or between totals are due to rounding.