Most Canadians support oilsands development: Poll

Alberta Premier Alison Redford. (PERRY MAH/QMI AGENCY)

Alberta Premier Alison Redford. (PERRY MAH/QMI AGENCY)

QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 5:32 PM ET

A majority of Canadians support the development of the oilsands, a new poll has found.

The Montreal Economic Institute had Leger Marketing poll Canadians from coast to coast for their opinions on the country's oil industry.

Most respondents (72%) said they have a favourable view of developing the oilsands and think the best approach is to develop the resource while limiting the environmental impact. Support for this position is greatest in Alberta, where 85% think it's the best approach, and lowest in Quebec, where 67% are in favour.

A further 8% of Canadians polled said the best approach to the oilsands would be to focus on maximizing the economic development.

Michel Kelly-Gagnon, a QMI Agency columnist and the president of the Montreal Economic Institute, says the combined 80% of people in favour of developing the oilsands is "a quite impressive number."

"I think if we talk in terms of overall result, the overarching theme is that Canadians are quite favourable to the development of the oilsands and the oil industry in Canada," Kelly-Gagnon said Monday. "When you think of all the bashing that the oilsands went through in the media and different pundits and political figures, it's pretty impressive that it's at 80%."

The poll found that less than 40% of Canadians are familiar with the oilsands industry's efforts to keep the environmental impact in check, but when informed of those efforts, 71% of respondents said they feel the efforts are significant, and 49% said that learning about the efforts to curtail the environmental impact of oilsands development positively changed their perception of the resource.

The most surprising result was Canadians' response to a question about environmental lobbies, Kelly-Gagnon said.

When asked whether they agree with the statement, "Several environmental lobbies are too radical," 21% of Canadians said they strongly agree and 31% said they somewhat agree. Sixteen percent said they somewhat disagree, 11% said they strongly disagree and 21% said they don't know.

"When you hear the news or listen to different outfits, it seems like environmental groups seem to be very popular, they seem to be speaking on the behalf of Canadians as a whole," Kelly-Gagnon said. "If you had asked me before the poll, I would have thought the result would have been the exact opposite."

Just under half of Canadians support the Northern Gateway pipeline project, with 19% of respondents saying they are strongly in favour and 30% saying they're somewhat in favour. And 9% of Canadians surveyed said they don't know what their opinion is on the matter, while 6% said they're indifferent.

The proposed pipeline would send Alberta's oil to a tanker terminal on B.C.'s north coast.

The poll was conducted online with 2,560 Canadians between Sept. 17 and 20. The respondents were selected from Leger Marketing's LegerWeb Internet panel. The poll has a margin of error of 1.9 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.


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