A new Insights West poll commissioned by Burnaby South NDP MP Kennedy Stewart suggests 23 per cent of those who are opposed to the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion are willing to risk arrest in acts of protest and civil disobedience to halt the project.
But the poll also finds that support for the pipeline expansion has actually grown in B.C. since November, while opposition has slightly dropped.
Of the 938 British Columbians surveyed by Insights West, 48 per cent said they support the pipeline expansion, while 44 per cent opposed it, and nine per cent were undecided.
The support for the project grew by three per cent since the last Insights West poll on the issue was done in November 2017. Opposition declined by one per cent.
In the most recent poll, of those who are opposed, 23 per cent said they would consider acts of civil disobedience aimed at stopping or disrupting construction.
“This is the kind of result that keeps me up at night with worry,” Stewart said in a press release.
But it has been suggested that Stewart himself has been actively encouraging public protests and civil disobedience.
In a letter to his supporters, Stewart wrote that he found it “encouraging” that so many British Columbians are willing to take part in public protests and acts of civil disobedience to stop the pipeline.
Stewart told Business in Vancouver he decided to raise money for the poll because he doesn’t think parliamentarians in Ottawa understand just how serious the situation could get in B.C.
“This is not a bunch of hippies, 20 hippies, who are going to stand in front of a pipeline,” he said. “This is potentially thousands and thousands of people, which could quickly get out of hand, and I just don’t think it’s registering here in Ottawa.”
Activists and First Nations have warned of civil disobedience on the scale of the Clayoquot Sound War in the Woods of the 1990s, which resulted in 900 arrests, and more recent Standing Rock protests over the Dakota Access pipeline in North Dakota, which ended with the National Guard being brought in to dismantle a protest camp.
Stewart said he got the Burnaby South NDP association to raise money for the poll, which cost $2,000. He wanted some hard data to impress upon his fellow parliamentarians in Ottawa just how serious the situation could get.
“It just seems to be missed here in Ottawa,” he said. “That’s what I’ve really noticed — they don’t realize how serious it is on the coast.”
He said the findings of the poll are troubling, given the willingness of those who are opposed to the pipeline’s expansion to take to the streets in protests and acts of civil disobedience.
“When you spread that out over the whole province, it’s one in 10, which is extremely high,” he said.
While Burnaby is expected to be ground zero in anti-pipeline protests, Stewart believes there could be protests elsewhere in B.C. as well, especially among First Nations who are in the pipeline corridor.
According to Kinder Morgan Canada , about 50 agreements have been signed with First Nations along the pipeline corridor.
But even within those communities that have signed benefits agreements, there are likely to be small but ardent factions of First Nations who disagree with their leaders.
“This pipeline goes through nine reserves,” Stewart said. “I’m meeting with First Nations all the time who are deeply, deeply opposed to this and will not stand for it going through their territory.”
Stewart has tried to table the findings of the Insights West poll in the House of Commons, but said he’s not allowed to table documents without the permission of the government.
“I didn’t get permission so that’s why I’m making it public,” he said.
Stewart said he would support pipeline expansions that went to Eastern Canada, but only if it were to supply Canadian refineries. He would not support pipelines intended to export Alberta oil, like the Energy East pipeline proposal.
That proposal has since been scrapped by TransCanada Corporation, which is now focused on the resurrected Keystone XL pipeline expansion.
© Business in Vancouver