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Six-in-ten Canadians see a pipeline crisis, half blame Trudeau: poll

Justin Trudeau answers questions at a town hall event (CP)

Six-in-ten Canadians feel the country is in crisis over its lack of new energy pipelines, according to a poll released Wednesday.

The Angus Reid Institute questioned more than 4,000 individuals between late December and early January. The findings show about half place blame on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Liberal government for not doing enough to move projects forward.

Canada’s long-standing pipeline issue was thrust into the spotlight again in late 2018, as prices for heavy Canadian crude plunged against global benchmarks. A barrel of Western Canadian Select (WCS) oil, the main grade produced in Alberta, sold for as much as $52 less than U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) in October.

Alberta Premier Rachel Notley pressed Ottawa for action, explaining Canada’s heavy oil discount was costing the nation more than $80 million per day. Notley took the matter into her own hands in early December, curtailing 325,000 barrels per day worth of production to ease the glut of oil trapped in the province that weighed on prices.

WCS prices have recovered since mid-November, significantly narrowing the discount to the U.S. benchmark. However, many industry observers see the government-imposed production cut as a band-aid on a problem with only one solution — more pipeline capacity to move Canada’s oil to foreign markets.

(Angus Reid Institute)

The outcry from Canada’s energy patch was recently underscored by the announcement last Wednesday that Calgary-based TransCanada Corp. (TRP.TOplans to change its name to TC Energy. The pipeline company, which is increasingly drawing more of its revenue from outside Canada, said the decision is meant to reflect the scope of its operations across North America.

While pipeline expansion has attracted fierce opposition from various stakeholders, including environmental and Indigenous groups, Angus Reid found two-thirds (65 per cent) of those polled count oil and gas as a critical industry. Seven-in-ten (69 per cent) said they expect the country will be considerably impacted without new pipeline capacity.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, frustration over the lack of new pipelines was found to be most acute in Alberta, home to the vast majority Canada’s energy resources. Eighty-seven per cent of those polled in that province called the situation a crisis, compared to 40 per cent in Quebec, where pipeline anxiety was found to be weakest.

More than half (53 per cent) said they support both TransCanada’s Energy East pipeline and the Trans Mountain project that Ottawa purchased from Kinder Morgan Canada (KML.TO) for $4.5 billion in May.

SURVEY METHODOLOGY:

The Angus Reid Institute conducted an online survey from December 21, 2018 – January 3, 2019, among a representative randomized sample of 4,024 Canadian adults who are members of the Angus Reid Forum. The sample plan included large oversamples in some regions that were then weighted back to
provide a national snapshot. For comparison purposes only, a probability sample of this size with this sample frame would carry a margin of error of +/- 2.5 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.
Discrepancies in or between totals are due to rounding. The survey was self-commissioned and paid for by ARI.

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