Majorities of Canadians in most provinces support the federal government’s new carbon pricing plan, and differences in public opinion between Alberta and British Columbia aren’t necessarily as entrenched as they might appear, according to two separate pieces of analysis released this week.
The top-line result, based on recent data from Environics Research, shows nine out of 10 Canadians concerned about climate change and the majority supporting carbon pricing in all provinces but Alberta and Saskatchewan, reports Kamloops TV station CFJC Today.
“For many Canadians, it appears their concern about the consequences of climate change is strong enough that they’re willing to bear some cost to help stop it,” said Environics Group VP Tony Coulson. And for the first time, “a slim majority now feels that voluntary action is not enough to address the challenges we face,” and it’s time for governments to step in.
That view was echoed last week by Tracy Snoddon, policy analyst with the business-friendly C.D. Howe Institute. “The politics of carbon pricing may have changed, but the climate change challenge and Canada’s emissions reduction targets under the Paris Agreement have not,” she told the Globe and Mail. “The economics are also unchanged—carbon pricing continues to be the most cost-effective option for achieving emissions reductions across the country.”
The CFJC Today post takes aim at what opinion writer David Charbonneau sees as political games being played on both sides of the carbon pricing divide. But a separate study this week by the Edmonton-based Parkland Institute suggests the polarization between Alberta and B.C. has not been as severe as it seemed—at least not as recently as February and March, 2018, before the political dispute over the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion hit its peak.
The survey results “indicate that the difference in opinion between the two provinces reflected in recent polls is more a case of manufactured discontent from a year-long war of words between the two provincial governments than a reflection of deep-seated differences between the two provinces,” said lead author and Parkland Institute Director Trevor Harrison. “Many residents in both provinces supported a nuanced approach that involved having more voices heard, were wary of the claims the oil industry, and recognized the need to substantially reduce the use of carbon-based energy. Similarly, there was not widespread disapproval of protesters, even in Alberta.”
Parkland reports that:
- Nearly half of respondents in both provinces agreed that “ordinary people have no control over oil and gas development”.
- Almost three-quarters in both provinces agreed that “what is good for markets isn’t always good for communities.”
- 52% in Alberta and 62% in B.C. agreed that “protest groups are an important part of democracy”, with only 33% in Alberta and 23% in B.C. agreeing that “people who protest pipeline development are against progress.”
- Majorities in both provinces—53% in Alberta, 69% in B.C.—agreed that “we need to move away from using fossil fuels.”
- 76% in Alberta and 68% in B.C. thought the petroleum industry has too much influence over governments, while fewer than one-third in either province said the same about either environmentalists or Indigenous groups.
“The survey results suggest that many residents in both Alberta and B.C. at the time understood and supported a nuanced approach that involved having more voices heard, that was wary of the claims of big business and the oil industry, and that recognized the need to substantially reduce the use of carbon-based energy,” Parkland writes.
“There was, at the time the survey was conducted, not widespread disapproval of protesters, not even in Alberta. Where statistically significant provincial differences were found, they involved the relative strength of agreement or disagreement, not highly polarized opposing positions.”