Canadians Back Trudeau’s Pipeline, But His Own Voters Are Wary

(Bloomberg) -- A wide margin of Canadians support an oil pipeline that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government is pushing to build -- though it remains unpopular among some voting blocs key to his reelection, a poll has found.

In a poll published Wednesday by the Angus Reid Institute, 53 percent of Canadians said they support both the Trans Mountain pipeline, bought last year by the government, and the Energy East pipeline proposal that was abandoned by its proponent. Another 19 percent oppose both, while 11 percent support just one of the two.

Canada’s pipelines are essentially full and efforts to build new ones have met a long series of delays over the last decade -- leading the province of Alberta to force a production cut to address a glut. The poll results signal generally broad support for a project the government is trying to move forward on, after a court ruling struck down its initial permit. Trudeau has struggled, though, to balance the views of environmentalists and supporters of the country’s energy sector.

The Trans Mountain pipeline would carry crude from Alberta to a Vancouver-area port. It has net-positive support in both provinces, despite high-profile opposition in British Columbia. In that province, 47 percent favor Trans Mountain and Energy East versus 22 percent who oppose both. The gap in energy-rich Alberta is much wider -- 87 percent favor both while 2 percent oppose both.

Quebec, Younger Voters

In total, 58 percent of Canadians said the lack of new oil pipeline capacity is a “crisis” for Canada, while 42 percent said it wasn’t. Canadians want Trudeau to move more quickly, with 50 percent saying he’s doing too little to add pipeline space, versus 27 percent who say he’s pushing too hard already and 23 percent who back his moves to-date.

That doesn’t mean, though, that Trudeau has full leeway to plow ahead. Vote-rich Quebec -- a French-speaking province upon which much of Trudeau’s reelection hopes this year rest -- is an outlier. It’s the only region where more people oppose both pipelines than support both, and it’s the only region where a majority say pipeline capacity isn’t a crisis. Energy East, proposed by TransCanada Corp., would have run through Quebec, and met stiff opposition there.

Younger people, too, are less likely to back the projects, and other polls have shown Trudeau tends to be popular among younger voters. Young people are more likely than those 35 and up to say the pipeline crunch is not a crisis, more likely to say Trudeau is pushing too hard, and more likely to oppose both pipelines. About 53 percent of respondents who intend to vote for Trudeau’s Liberals also said they didn’t think it’s a crisis.

The poll was compiled by an online survey, held from Dec. 21, 2018 to Jan. 3, of 4,024 Canadian adults. It is considered accurate within 2.5 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

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