53% of Canadians want next federal government to build Trans Mountain pipeline expansion, poll says

More than half of Canadians surveyed want their next federal government to build the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion between Alberta and British Columbia, according to a new poll.

An online survey of more than 1,500 respondents in August by the Angus Reid Institute found that Canadians were more than twice as likely to say the next federal government should proceed with and complete the pipeline project, with 53 per cent of respondents saying so, as opposed to those who say it should be stopped, at 24 per cent.

The Liberal government bought the pipeline for $4.5 billion last year. Some construction is already underway, and the government now says the expanded pipeline will be operational by mid-2022.

Despite the support for the project, most Canadians also want federal funding to be invested in renewable energy sources instead of non-renewables. 

Over 60 per cent of respondents view renewable energy as a "huge opportunity" for Canada. According to Natural Resources Canada, only 17 per cent of Canada's total energy supply comes from renewable sources like wind and solar energy.

"It seems like Canadians are supportive of a diverse energy portfolio," said Dave Korzinski, a research associate at Angus Reid. "They like the idea of completing the pipeline but also using that money to invest in renewable resources."

Among the provinces, only Quebec voiced more opposition than support for the Trans Mountain expansion. The project has a slight edge in approval in British Columbia and Ontario, where a little over half of respondents want it to proceed.

Albertans remain the pipeline's biggest proponents, with 85 per cent of respondents from that province in support of its expansion. 

Terry Reith/CBC

When it comes to assessing the federal government's approach to the pipeline issue, Canadians are more divided. 

Four in 10 believe Ottawa should be doing more to increase pipeline capacity, while a third believe the government has already been pushing too hard on the project. Around a quarter of Canadians say the government has had a balanced approach.

"One of the biggest communication challenges for [Justin] Trudeau heading into the [election] campaign is this natural resources issue and the pipeline issue because Canadians are really all over the map," said Korzinski.

Based on current voting intentions, more than 80 per cent of Conservative voters overwhelmingly support building the expansion. Canadians who lean toward the NDP and the Green Party are more likely to oppose the project, while Liberal supporters are less divided. 

For voters whose top election issue is the oil and gas sector, the Conservative Party emerges as a clear favourite with 36 per cent of those voters, compared to 19 per cent who would choose the Liberals.

The online survey was conducted Aug. 21-26 among a representative randomized sample of 1,534 Canadian adults who are members of Angus Reid Forum. A probability sample of this size would carry a margin of error of plus or minus 2.5 percentage points, 19 times out of 20. 

The survey was self-commissioned and paid for by the Angus Reid Institute, a non-profit, non-partisan public opinion research foundation.