Support for Kinder Morgan Pipeline Expansion Increases Dramatically in British Columbia

The majority of residents are convinced the pipeline will eventually get built.

Vancouver, BC – With Kinder Morgan’s decision to set May 31st as a deadline to create certainty for the company’s investment in the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion, and recent federal government actions to mediate competing positions in BC and Alberta, support for the pipeline project has increased dramatically, a new exclusive CTV/Insights West poll has found.

In the online survey of a representative sample of British Columbians, 55% of residents now say they support the proposed expansion of the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline, an 11 point increase since an Insights West poll conducted in September 2017. Thirty-six percent now oppose the pipeline expansion project, a drop of 10 points. Support for the pipeline is at its highest level in 5 years. In particular, strong support for the pipeline expansion has jumped 15 points over the past 7 months to 34%, while strong opposition has decreased 7 points to 23%, a reversal of the trends last September (19% strong support vs. 30% strong opposition).

When asked what they thought the chances are that the pipeline will be built, 84% of British Columbians gave it a 50% chance or better of being completed. This includes 12% who were 100% certain; far fewer – 16% – give it less than a 50% chance, including just 2% who believe it has no chance at all. Strong majorities of those who support (92%) or oppose (71%) the pipeline expansion believe it has a 50% chance or better of getting built.

A majority of British Columbians across all regions and population groups support the pipeline expansion project, but there are significant regional differences. Support is much stronger outside the southwestern part of the province – 61% give the pipeline a thumbs up compared to slim majorities in the Lower Mainland (51%) and on Vancouver Island (52%). Overall support has grown most in the Lower Mainland (+10) and on Vancouver Island (+11) in the past 7 months. The largest drop in opposition since September of last year has occurred in the Lower Mainland (down 11 points, 48% to 37%).

Among population groups, age is a significant factor as it relates towards views on the pipeline. Close to 7-in-10 older British Columbians (55+) support the pipeline expansion (69%) compared to 38% of those 18-34, and 51% of 35 to 54 year olds. Further, many more men (62%) than women (48%) back the pipeline.

The pipeline saga has always been a highly politicized debate, as the vast majority of those who voted for the BC Liberal party in the 2017 provincial election (81%) approve of the pipeline expansion. By comparison, BC NDP and Green party voters are much more divided in their views; just over half of voters of both parties (53% and 54%, respectively) are opposed to the pipeline, but what is somewhat problematic for these two parties is that significant numbers also support it – 40% of BC New Democrats, and 37% of BC Greens. Federally, Conservative voters (85%) are much stronger supporters of the pipeline expansion than either Liberals (57%) or New Democrats (33%).

In the week following Kinder Morgan’s decision to halt all non-essential spending on the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion, a number of suggested actions surfaced as possible avenues to resolve differences between all levels of government before the May 31st deadline the company has set. Among those tested in this Insights West survey, British Columbians are most supportive of the federal government referring the dispute between BC and Alberta to the Supreme Court of Canada (55%), or it invoking section 91 of the Constitution to declare the pipeline in the national interest (45%). They are most opposed to the federal government withholding promised funding for strengthening protection and safety of BC coastal environment and waters (72% opposed) or for transportation infrastructure (71%). A solid majority (68%) also oppose the Alberta government passing legislation that would block the flow of petroleum to BC. And, 60% oppose the federal government using public funds to buy all or part of the pipeline. As for ignoring Kinder Morgan’s May 31st deadline, the BC public is quite divided – 35% support the idea, 42% oppose it, and 24% are unsure.

When it comes to judging the key actors on all sides of the debates over the pipeline expansion, British Columbians are decidedly mixed in their views. A greater level of support is given to stances taken by environmental organizations (51%) and BC First Nations leaders (48%) than others; however, a third also oppose their positions and actions (35% and 32%, respectively). More than 4-in-10 back Kinder Morgan (45%), John Horgan, BC’s Premier (43%), and Justin Trudeau, PM of Canada (41%), but similar numbers also oppose where they stand on the pipeline. Fewer stand behind the positions and actions of Rachel Notley, Alberta’s Premier (35%), or Derek Corrigan, Mayor of Burnaby (27%).

Politically speaking, it’s notable that NDP Premier John Horgan garners 69% support from British Columbians who voted for his party in the 2017 provincial election, while 22% oppose his positions and actions on the pipeline expansion. Meanwhile, the Premier receives support from 64% of BC Green voters, with 25% in opposition to his stance.

Importantly, British Columbians are engaged in issues and debates about the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion. Fully 66% say they have discussed it in social settings with their friends, family, or colleagues, and 61% are following the news about it closely. One-in-five also say they have commented on someone’s online post about the pipeline while 17% have posted something on Facebook, and 7% have tweeted about it. Few have taken direct action by going to a protest (6%).

As in other areas related to the pipeline, age is a factor in how British Columbians are engaging in issues surrounding its expansion. British Columbians 55+ are more likely than their younger counterparts (18-34) to have discussed the issue in social settings (73% vs. 60%, respectively), followed the news closely about it (74% vs. 47%), or commented on someone’s post (22% vs. 15%).

“Despite the dramatic increase in public support for the Kinder Morgan pipeline recently—opinions remain politicized, polarized and divisive between different segments of the population,” says Steve Mossop, President at Insights West. “As public opinion has shifted towards support, it will be interesting to see whether it results in a softening of hardline anti-pipeline positioning by our provincial government and special interest groups.”

About Insights West:

Insights West is a progressive, Western-based, full-service marketing research company. It exists to serve the market with insights-driven research solutions and interpretive analysis through leading-edge tools, normative databases, and senior-level expertise across a broad range of public and private sector organizations. Insights West is based in Vancouver and Calgary.

Most of our surveys are conducted through our Your Insights panel. The Your Insights Panel is comprised of 30,000 Canadians who share their opinions on a variety of political, economic, social and other issues while earning the opportunity to get paid and win great prizes. If you’re interested in joining, please register at yourinsights.ca.

About this Release:

Results are based on an online study conducted from April 13 to April 16, 2018, among a representative sample of 1,021 British Columbian adults. The data has been statistically weighted according to Canadian census figures for age, gender and region. The margin of error—which measures sample variability—is +/- 3.1 percentage points. Click here to view the detailed data tabulations.

For further information, please contact:

Steve Mossop
President, Insights West
778 891 4762
stevemossop@insightswest.com