By Malcolm Baxter
A NEW opinion poll commissioned by Skeena-Bulkley NDP MP Nathan Cullen shows more people oppose the Northern Gateway project than support it.
The Mustel poll was based on 501 interviews completed by telephone (both land lines and cellular) between January 25 and February 8.
It has a margin of error of +/-4.4 per cent.
Those surveyed were first asked, “Have you read or heard anything about the proposal by Enbridge to build a pipeline that carries raw crude oil from Alberta to BC’s coast for shipment to Asian countries?”
A total of 86.8 per cent said they had heard of the project, 13.2 per cent had not.
The equivalent numbers for an Ipsos-Reid poll commissioned by Enbridge last December were 72 per cent and 25 per cent.
Ipsos-Reid polled 1,000 BCers for a 3.3 per cent margin of error.
The heightened awareness indicated by the Mustel survey is not surprising given the Joint Review Panel sessions on the project – particularly the January 10-11 one in Kitamaat Village – received blanket coverage in the media.
The next question was, “Do you support or oppose the construction of such a pipeline?”
Here the opponents outnumbered the supporters 46 per cent to 36.8 per cent, a reversal of the Ipsos-Reid poll which had 48 per cent supporting and 31 per cent opposing.
Undecideds numbered 7.3 per cent (20 per cent Ipsos-Reid).
“It appears that at the same time knowledge of the project is growing, so is opposition,” said Cullen.
In the regional breakdown of the Mustel poll, the highest percentage opposed was on the South Coast/Vancouver Island (58.3 per cent) while the least opposition was in the Southern Interior (43 per cent).
The North Coast/Interior result was 43.9 per cent opposed.
The Southern Interior had the highest level of support (41.2 per cent) followed by the North Coast/Interior (39 per cent).
The fourth question asked zeroed in on potential job creation by Northern Gateway.
People were read the following statement: “Some people say that the Enbridge pipeline project will create many jobs, even after the peak construction years. Others say that most of the jobs are short-term and that in fact many long-term jobs will be lost because unrefined oil is being shipped to other countries.”
Then were then asked, “Which view comes closest to your own?”
The second part of the statement – most jobs will be short-term – rang true for 60.7 per cent of respondents versus 27.2 per cent with 12.1 per cent being don’t knows.
Surprisingly, perhaps, Metro Vancouver scored highest in the ‘many jobs’ category at 29.8 per cent followed closely by the North Coast/Interior (28.9 per cent).
The region that most agreed with the ‘few jobs, lost jobs’ scenario was the South Coast/Vancouver Island at 70.6 per cent.
“People get that the project will not create permanent jobs,” said Cullen, adding, “We certainly want jobs in my riding, but people are not going to settle for short-term cash instead of long-term value-added jobs.”
Northern Gateway’s communications manager Paul Stanway said the findings of the Mustel poll are so different from the Ipsos Reid because of the way questions were asked.
“It seems to me that the questions were quite pointed, which we tried not to do in the poll we did. We tried to present people with neutral questions, so that people weren’t influenced to answer one way or another,” he explained.
As for the Northern Gateway Project only creating a minimal amount of long-term jobs, Stanway said he’s not sure where people are getting such low numbers from, estimating that 1,150 jobs would be created by the project – with half of that number being in BC – as well as potentially another 200 jobs in the marine operations of the project.
Stanway added that once the Joint Reivew Panel process is over, people will be able to fairly make up their mind on the issue.
Footnote: Eagle-eyed readers will have spotted we went straight from question two to question four. That’s because Cullen’s office did not release question three, telling The Northern Sentinel that it was “for internal use only”.
Requests made to Cullen’s office for an explanation have so far gone unanswered.
Malcolm Baxter is the editor of The Northern Sentinel in Kitimat, BC.