Despite a months-long effort by the fossil industry and its supporters to gin up opposition to the new federal Impact Assessment Act, pollsters say Bill C-69 has yet to emerge as a “highly controversial” national concern.
“One of the most hotly debated issues in Ottawa in recent years has been the federal government’s legislative proposals surrounding major project reviews,” Abacus Data reports. But outside the Ottawa bubble, 63% of Canadians say they’ve heard nothing about it, 32% say they’ve heard a little, and only 5% say they’ve heard a lot.
“Awareness is higher than average in Alberta,” Abacus notes, “but even in that province only 12% say they have heard a lot about the bill, and almost half have heard nothing about it.”
The polling organization’s figures show virtually no difference in awareness based on party affiliation. And in the 78 swing ridings that were won by margins of 5% or less in 2015, “awareness of the C-69 debate is no higher than the national average.”
What’s more, “among the 37% who have heard about the bill (917 respondents), opinion is generally positive, with 63% saying they think it is a step in the right direction,” Abacus states. “In Alberta, 42% say the bill is a step in the right direction. The bill has more support among Liberal and NDP supporters, while Conservative voters are evenly split.”
While 62% of respondents who knew about the bill thought it would have a positive effect on investment and jobs, 62% of Albertans and 56% of Conservative Party supporters thought the opposite. 68% of Canadians, 53% of Albertans, and 57% of Conservative supporters said the bill would have a positive effect for the environment.
“These findings are another reminder that what preoccupies partisans may or may not always attract a great deal of attention among the general public,” said Abacus Data Chair Bruce Anderson. “Opinions about the bill are clearly more negative among Albertans and Conservative Party supporters than among others, but the amount of polarization around regional and party lines is perhaps somewhat less than might have been expected given the tone and tenor of the debate.”
Anderson noted that “UCP Leader Jason Kenney has made opposition to Bill C-69 a major plank in his campaign to win the provincial election in Alberta, and federal Conservatives have also been highly critical of the bill.” But “the results suggest that many people have not developed the impression conveyed by the critics of Bill C-69—that it is a project killer and will have a chilling effect on investment in the resources sectors.”