More than a third of respondents — 35 per cent — said they “strongly” support this project, while 20 per cent said they “somewhat” support it.
On the other side, 23 per cent of respondents said they “strongly” oppose the project, and 12 per cent are “somewhat” opposed.
Ten per cent of respondents said they don’t know whether they oppose or support the project.
The interactive phone survey was conducted from June 28 to 30 and included 1,812 random adults in regions across the country. Results are considered accurate within a margin of error of plus or minus 3 per cent, 19 times out of 20.
Lorne Bozinoff, president of Forum Research, pointed to high support for the project in the Prairies — with 82 per cent of Alberta respondents backing the project, for example — but said that is not likely to translate to votes for the governing Liberals. Even though Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s cabinet decided to buy the pipeline for $4.5 billion to ensure it gets built, and reapproved the project after a court-imposed delay last month, Forum Research and other pollsters consistently survey high levels of support for the opposition Conservatives in the region.
Instead, Bozinoff said the prominence of heated opposition to the pipeline in B.C. might mask a quiet cohort of support for the project that could favour the Liberals in the coming election. While more than a quarter of respondents from the province — 28 per cent — said they strongly oppose the project, 57 per cent said they support it.
“Those that are opposed to it in B.C., they really don’t like it,” Bozinoff said. “But I think there may have been that silent minority that was probably OK with it, and the Liberals may be aligning themselves with that group.”
The only region in the poll where more respondents opposed the pipeline than backed it was Quebec, where 39 per cent said they strongly oppose the expansion — the highest of all regions — and 11 per cent were somewhat opposed.
Bozinoff said his firm’s polling has shown a higher preoccupation with environmental issues in Quebec, as a recent poll suggested the environment is now a top concern for voters heading into the federal election campaign.
“Sometimes there are these societal shifts going on,” Bozinoff said. “Something like that may be happening in Quebec, but to a greater extent.”
The Liberal government first approved the Trans Mountain expansion in 2016, when the existing system was owned by Kinder Morgan, a major American oil and gas company. In the face of court challenges from Indigenous and environmental groups opposed to the project, the company sold the pipeline to the federal government last year. Months later, the top court in B.C. quashed the approval for the pipeline, ruling that consultations with Indigenous peoples fell short and that the regulatory review process didn’t account for the impact of increased tanker traffic on imperilled marine life like southern resident orcas.
Ottawa launched a fresh round of consultations with 129 Indigenous groups and ordered a new assessment of environmental impacts, which concluded the project would have significant adverse effects but that the expansion is still in the national public interest. The Liberal cabinet agreed, and reapproved the project with a list of conditions and added precautions on June 18.
The government claims the project will create thousands of “solid, middle class jobs” and help companies in Alberta sell oil overseas for higher prices.
In its quarterly monetary report on Wednesday, the Bank of Canada said the expansion approval is a “positive development” for Alberta’s oil and gas industry that has been battered by a drop in investment and a low price for oil in recent years. The central bank noted, however, that investment in the sector is expected to drop through the rest of the year and bring the level of investment to about 20 per cent lower than it was in 2017, and 50 per cent lower than between 2014 and 2016.
The bank said consultations with the sector suggest transportation constraints and production limits imposed in Alberta to shore up the price of oil “continue to weigh heavily” in Western Canada and are limiting the industry’s access to credit.
Meanwhile, environmental groups and First Nations have launched new court challenges seeking to quash the government’s decision to reapprove the expansion project.
Construction is expected to begin this summer.
Alex Ballingall is an Ottawa-based reporter covering national politics. Follow him on Twitter: @aballinga