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Majority of Canadians Say Climate More Important than Oilsands, Pipelines

On Saturday, April 11, thousands of Canadians are expected to gather in Quebec City for a national day of action on climate change (update: an estimated 25,000 attended the march). The march will occur in advance of an unprecedented gathering of the nation's premiers, who will meet in Quebec City April 14 to discuss provincial climate plans (Premiers Christy Clark, Jim Prentice and Stephen McNeil declined to attend the summit).

According to a new poll released by the Canadian arm of the Climate Action Network, the majority of Canadians feel addressing climate change is a higher priority than developing the Alberta oilsands or building pipelines.

“Canadians believe climate disruption is a moral issue and that climate protection trumps development of the tarsands and pipelines. They want politicians to control carbon pollution and give citizens a say in energy decision-making,” the network said in a press release.

Polling data shows the majority of Canadians — 61 per cent — from across the political spectrum said protecting the climate is more important than further developing the oilsands and building the proposed Energy East pipeline, designed to carry 1.1 million barrels of oilsands crude each day to east coast refineries and export terminals.

Eighty per cent of Canadians said they were familiar with the Energy East project and 47 per cent of Canadians oppose the project, 36 per cent support it and 18 per cent said they were unsure.

The poll also showed Canadians are supportive of clean energy initiatives, with 72 per cent saying they would like to see a plan in place for more jobs in the renewable energy sector.

A report recently released by Greenpeace Canada and Environmental Defence argues continued expansion of the Alberta oilsands is at cross-purposes with the nation’s greenhouse gas emission reduction targets.

The study argues increased production in the oilsands “makes it almost impossible for Canada to meet even weak carbon reduction targets or go further and show climate leadership.”

In the past few years Canadians engaged in the pipeline review process have expressed serious concern with the legitimacy of the National Energy Board and its role in reviewing major energy infrastructure projects.

The National Energy Board is currently engaged in a tense formal public hearing process in British Columbia on the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline expansion and in Ontario and Quebec along the route of the Energy East pipeline.

Recently, seven B.C. mayors publicly declared their "non-confidence" in the board’s review of the Trans Mountain pipeline. The municipal leaders requested the federal government intervene and halt the process until a full public hearing process is re-instated.  

“Canadians are looking for political leadership,” Stephen Guilbeault, senior policy director at Equiterre, said. “The federal government is missing in action. It is time for all federal and provincial leaders to take responsibility for doing their part to protect the climate.”

The poll was conducted by Oracle Research Limited which conducted a national random telephone survey of over 3,000 Canadians between March 12 and March 30, 2015. The margin of error for the survey is +/- 1.78%, 19/20 times.

Image Credit: Zack Embree

Carol Linnitt is a journalist, editor, illustrator and co-founder of The Narwhal. Carol has been reporting on energy and environmental…

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