Canadians across the country, and of all ages and political stripes, support federal government assistance to an oil and gas sector facing record-low oil prices in the midst of a global pandemic. But there’s no indication in survey results released last week by Abacus Data whether anyone wants to see the money directed to Alberta fossil companies and their shareholders.
The online survey of 2,309 Canadians asked whether federal support should focus on “maintaining household incomes and government revenues until prices rise” or “diversifying economies in those provinces,” Abacus reports. It showed 63% support for the first option, 37% for the second.
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The Ottawa-based agency notes that only 18% of respondents opposed federal assistance to the sector, while 43% supported the idea and 39% said they could accept it. Support ranged from a high of 90% in Alberta to a still-decisive 70% in Quebec, and from 89% among voters who backed the Conservative Party in last fall’s election to 58% among Bloc Québécois supporters.
Support for an economic diversification package for Alberta’s fossil sector came in at 42% in both Alberta and British Columbia and 39% among all 2019 voters—except for Green Party supporters, only 33% of whom backed the diversification option.
”Health anxiety and economic trauma have created a new normal in terms of policy preferences—and very rapidly. Gone are sharp regional and party lines around oil and gas, replaced by a desire to see one another get through this challenging time and to expect governments to intervene as needed to help,” Abacus Chair Bruce Anderson said in a release.
“What is probably unique about support measures to deal with the collapse of oil prices is some uncertainty about what is the best way to support Albertans, and whether the solutions should feel like a bet on a product that can be volatile and may have a challenging future, even when the COVID crisis is behind us,” he added. “There’s a slight warning signal to policy-makers contemplating support—the public will want measures that help people, and not necessarily steps designed to help shareholders or bet on the long term future of oil.”
Abacus didn’t respond to a weekend email asking whether respondents had a chance to weigh in on a direct bailout to fossil companies. (We’re glad if that means Abacus staff got a weekend away from email, and we’ll update this story when we hear back.)
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