By Cameron Orr
THE results of a survey conducted by a public opinion polling company show a narrowing gap between those who oppose the Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline proposal and those who support it.
That’s in comparison to a survey conducted in February this year by Insights West.
The survey was conducted online using a representative sample of B.C. residents. Overall support for the pipeline proposal stands at 42 per cent in their results — inclusive of people who are strongly or somewhat in favour — while 47 per cent are opposed.
The company says that 42 per cent shows a seven-point increase since their February survey. The opposition, meanwhile, dropped 14 points from 61 per cent in February.
That said, the northern B.C. sample size in the results is admittedly very low. With 749 total respondents, northern B.C. encompasses just 25 people.
“Unfortunately the number for the north is pretty tiny, I wouldn’t draw a lot of conclusions from it,” said Mario Canseco, vice president of public affairs for Insights West. “But when you’re looking at the province as a whole you start to see an interesting trend.”
He said they would hope to at some point in the future do a study that’s more focused on the northern region.
He said there’s a number of things that could have shifted opinion on the project. That includes the rail disaster in Lac Megantic in Quebec which killed 47 people.
“You see what happens by rail, there’s a lot of people who say well maybe pipelines are the option if rail is going to be so dangerous and cause so many difficulties,” said Canseco.
He also said the political situation in B.C. could be a factor as well.
“You have a situation where there’s no legislative assembly sitting, there’s no opportunity for the opposition to talk about specific misgivings they have about the project, and we have an NDP leader who’s on the way out,” he said.
The B.C. Liberals push on a jobs platform has also done well and grown their base, Canseco adds.
Oil tanker traffic increase off of Kitimat is a concern shared by 88 per cent of respondents, and the risk of an oil spill is a concern shared by 85 per cent.
The survey has a margin of error of +/- 3.7 percentage points, nineteen times out of twenty.
Meanwhile MLA Robin Austin says this same poll tells a different story when it gets into the kinds of concerns people have with the project, saying those problems aren’t going away.
“Looking at the details of it, people are still extremely concerned about the marine side of it. That hasn’t changed, at all,” said Austin. “Those of us who have opposed this project have always said that tankers filled with diluted bitumen on the west coast of British Columbia is a terrible idea and even with all this money, the polling shows people are still very, very scared of having tankers on the west coast and there being a spill.”
He said it makes sense with Enbridge’s major spending on advertising that people with less knowledge about the issue would be swayed in favour.
But there’s still plenty of opposition, he said, and the NDP will continue pushing against the project.
Cameron Orr is the editor of The Northern Sentinel in Kitimat, BC.