B.C. and Alberta don't see eye to eye on energy and pipelines, according to new poll

It shouldn't come as a surprise, but B.C. and Alberta have differing priorities when it comes to pipelines and energy development, a new poll shows.

Feds in tough 'to bolster Alberta's struggling oil industry without alienating voters in Metro Vancouver'

Protesters opposing the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion shout at RCMP officers and contractors working for Kinder Morgan on Burnaby Mountain. (Darryl Dyck/Canadian Press)

It may not come as a surprise, but a new poll from the Angus Reid Institute suggests B.C. and Alberta have differing priorities when it comes to pipelines and energy development.

When asked if the National Energy Board made the right decision in approving the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion with conditions — 157 in total — 63 per cent of Albertans said it was the right call, while only 41 per cent in B.C. supported the move. 

"[B.C.'s] opposition is most vociferous and most vehement in Metro Vancouver, in the coastal communities, in this region that backs out into English Bay," says Shachi Kurl with the Angus Reid Institute. (CBC)

Only nine per cent of polled Albertans thought it was the wrong decision, as opposed to 34 per cent of those in B.C.

The contrast between B.C. and Alberta is important for the simple fact the pipeline would have to flow from one and through the other. 

Shachi Kurl, executive director at the Angus Reid Institute, explains why Metro Vancouver and Premier Christy Clark are so staunchly opposed to the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project. 1:11

But B.C. aligns with the rest of Canada on the issue — 41 per cent of Canadians across the county support the approval, which is higher than the 35 per cent of Canadians opposed to the decision.

Energy producers stand alone

As far as energy development goes, however, Alberta and Saskatchewan are in a league of their own. 

When asked what should take priority in Canada's energy policy, 65 per cent of Albertans and 60 per cent of those in Saskatchewan opted for "encouraging economic growth" over "protecting the environment."

Nowhere else in the country was that the case, with most putting the priority on the environment. In B.C., 56 per cent of those polled wanted priority given to the country's natural health. 

That said, Canadians tended to think all of the issues presented in relation to a potential national energy policy — the cost of energy, maintaining a steady supply of energy, promoting economic growth and protecting the environment — were important.

Slightly fewer also thought "promoting export opportunities" was also noteworthy. 

War of words

When it comes to the multitude of conditions placed on the approval of Trans Mountain, again there is a divide between western neighbours. 

Nearly 73 per cent of Albertans said the conditions were sufficient to address concerns over the project, while only 47 per cent in B.C. felt the same. 

The pipeline expansion, like most pipeline projects these days, has been controversial. There have been protests in B.C. against it and a recent war of words between Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi and Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson

At the heart of the debate is a tension between protection of the environment and the economy, although Robertson's arguments are largely based on the economic value of the environment. 

Tight spot for federal government

According to a release from the Angus Reid Institute to accompany the poll, this situation puts the federal government in a tight political spot, even after the creation of a three-person panel to further review the project and consider the long-term climate change consequences.

"Underlying these views are significant differences in opinion on whether the economy or the environment should take precedent in shaping Canadian energy policy — differences that will complicate the federal government's efforts to bolster Alberta's struggling oil industry without alienating voters in Metro Vancouver, many of whom cast ballots for the Liberal Party last October," it reads. 

Look at the poll results

The Angus Reid Institute conducted the online survey from May 30 to June 6, 2016, among a representative randomized sample of 1,505 Canadian adults who are members of the Angus Reid Forum. For comparison purposes only, a probability sample of this size would carry a margin of error of +/- 2.5 percentage points, 19 times out of 20. Discrepancies in or between totals are due to rounding. The survey was self-commissioned and paid for by ARI.