At the end of May, the Government of Canada announced plans to purchase the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion (for news coverage see). The decision by the federal government probably does not end the intergovernmental conflict, nor address indigenous concerns. It also tarnishes the Liberal government’s environmental image in that it is clearly allowing economics to trump environment concerns.
For a discussion of how the Kinder Morgan pipeline is as much about political theatre as real policy see the earlier post.
Current Support for the Pipeline Expansion
A recent Ipsos Global News survey found that attitudes about the expansion are fairly stable. Overall support (somewhat and strongly) has declined from 56% to 52% but half of this change is a rise in the number of don’t knows. Support has also remained solid in the two provinces most affected but dropped most evidently in Ontario, Manitoba and Saskatchewan. This may reflect as much about attitudes about federal money being spent than an actual decline in support.
Support for Government Purchase
The support for the government purchase is significantly lower than the total support for the pipeline. Less than half (42%) support the government decision. Excluding don’t knows the support and opposition are virtually tied. Notably, only 55% of current Liberal voters are on-side with this decision, which may be an indication that many Liberals are skeptical (either of the need for the purchase) or concerned about the environmental impact.
There is no question that the main driver of support for the pipeline expansion is economic interest. Six in ten Canadians agree that the expansion is in the national interest (almost the same percentage as support it). Nevertheless, only one in three Canadians (34%) strongly or somewhat agree that the government purchase is a good use of taxpayers’ money.
The pipeline issue was one that put Trudeau and the Liberals in an awkward position since there was no obvious way out even though public support clearly tilted in the direction of support. The purchase lessoned the immediate pressure and postponed, perhaps, the day of reckoning. The skepticism about the purchase leaves a significant risk in play. In the long term the issue will re-emerge and the government is no longer an arms-length player in the drama; it is fully invested whether it wants to be or not.
Source: Ipsos/ Global News online poll conducted between July 13 and 17, 2018 (n=1000). Source
Other polls mentioned are discussed here.