Support for Teck mine 'narrowly outpaces' opposition across Canada, survey says

Teck Resources' proposed $20-billion Frontier oilsands mine has left Canadians divided, says a new survey.

According to the non-profit Angus Reid Institute, support for the project across Canada "narrowly outpaces" opposition, 49 per cent to 40 per cent.

Angus Reid conducted a random sample of 1,300 Canadians — who were also members of the Angus Reid Forum — in an online survey about the Teck mine on Monday and Tuesday.

The survey shows the strongest support in the province where the project would be built.

"Albertans are overwhelmingly in favour of approving the Frontier mine," says the institute's press release on Wednesday.

Angus Reid Institute

"They are joined in majority support by fellow Prairie provinces Saskatchewan and Manitoba, as well as among Atlantic Canadians, who have long relied on a booming Albertan economy for employment opportunities."

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney recently wrote a letter to the federal government about how rejecting the project would have "devastating impacts" on the province's economy and fuel western political alienation.

"Here in Alberta," Kenney wrote, a cabinet rejection "could raise roiling western alienation to a boiling point — something I know your government has been attentive to since the election."

The Frontier mine is a proposed 292-square-kilometre, open-pit, petroleum-mining operation in northeastern Alberta. When fully operational, the mine is projected to produce some 260,000 barrels of oil a day and generate at least $12 billion in federal income and capital taxes.

Kenney says the mine would create 7,000 jobs during construction and require up to 2,500 workers during operation.

Quebecers strongly oppose project

The data says opposition to the project largely comes from responders in Quebec, with 57 per cent disagreeing with the construction of the mine.

They are also the largest group to say they strongly oppose the project, at 39 per cent, while Alberta was the most supportive, with strong support at 60 per cent.

Indigenous and environmental groups have argued that approval would have negative consequences.

According to a report by the joint review panel — established by the federal minister of Environment and the Alberta Energy Regulator — the mine would likely result in significant adverse environmental effects.

The report says the project would endanger wetlands, old-growth forests, wetland and old-growth reliant species, fishers, Canadian lynx, woodland caribou and the Ronald Lake bison herd. It also says biodiversity would be at risk.

CBC News Graphics

While awaiting a decision from the federal government, Teck Resources Ltd. has said it has set a target to be "carbon neutral" by 2050.

As well, Teck says it will look at alternative ways of moving materials at its mines, using cleaner power sources and implementing efficiency measures.

However, when responders were asked whether the pledge to be carbon neutral makes them more likely to support the project, 77 per cent said it would not.

Some skeptical of mine being built

In Alberta, 76 per cent think the project will be completed if approved. However, other provinces are more skeptical.

The survey says fewer than one-in-five responders think the Frontier mine will "absolutely" be built if approved.

Quebecers are most unsure of what would happen if approval is granted and are closely split between leaning yes it will be built, no it won't or not sure.

Angus Reid Institute

"Some observers have noted that while the decision to approve or reject the Frontier mine is a politically charged decision, it may have little overall relevance if market conditions do not improve," says the release.

Donald Lindsay, president and CEO of Teck, has said his company needs "3 Ps" for the project to be viable: a partner to help shoulder the $20.6-billion construction price tag, the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion, and a better price for oil.

"(It) is anyone's guess on what the federal government is going to do," Lindsay said last week at a CIBC Investment conference in Banff.