Uptick in support for Trans Mountain in B.C. as Ottawa set for decision

Sixty per cent of British Columbians support the expansion of the Trans Mountain pipeline, according to a new Ipsos poll commissioned by Resource Works.

The poll was released on Monday, one day ahead of today’s anticipated announcement by federal cabinet on the $7.4 billion to $9.3 billion twinning of the Trans Mountain pipeline.

Cabinet is expected to green-light the expansion again Tuesday, about a year after it was halted by the courts.

“We wanted to – prior to the decision – do what probably the federal government and provincial government and oil companies are doing, but for their own reference, which is public opinion polling,” said Stewart Muir, executive director for Resource Works.

“For every one person who is against the Trans Mountain expansion, there are two British Columbian residents in favour of it.”

The poll was based on a survey of 800 British Columbians, province-wide. Support for the project was higher in the north and interior of B.C., at 63%. Support in Vancouver was 59% and 60% on Vancouver Island.

More than a year ago, an Angus Reid poll put the support for the expansion in B.C. at 54%. More recently, in January, another Angus Reid poll found 53% of British Columbians considered lack of pipeline capacity a “crisis.” Canada-wide, it was 58%.

Mario Canseco, president of ResearchCo polling firm, said support for the Trans Mountain pipeline among British Columbians and Canadians in general began ticking up after the Canadian government bought the pipeline from Kinder Morgan Canada, which suggests some Canadians may have changed their stance once they, as taxpayers, had skin in the game.

A little over a year ago, when Kinder Morgan announced it was abandoning plans to expand the existing Trans Mountain pipeline, the Trudeau government tried to save the project by buying the existing pipeline for $4.5 billion, about $1 billion of which was for work that had already been done on the expansion, before it was halted by the BC Court of Appeal last year.

“Suddenly, when you’re an owner, you look at it differently,” Canseco said.

He also thinks an advertising campaign by the Jason Kenney government in Alberta tying high gasoline prices in B.C. to pipeline constraints may have had some impact.

Since the beginning of June, the Alberta government has blanketed B.C. with billboards, social media ads and advertising in mainstream media linking high gas prices in B.C. to Premier John Horgan’s “obstructing” the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion.

“Once you get those reminders consistently, there’s a chance that that could move anywhere from 5% to 10% of residents to say, ‘yes, this is the problem,’” Canseco said.

— Business in Vancouver

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