Jobs, environmental protection hold key to broad support for resource projects

Note: This column has been updated.

A survey conducted by Research Co. on behalf of LNG Canada sought to understand the support that exists for resource development projects in British Columbia and Canada.

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In the survey, a sizeable majority of British Columbians (71%) express support for resource development projects. In addition, 51% of respondents agree they are “tired of nothing getting built” in British Columbia – a proportion that jumps to 67% among those who reside in northern B.C.

Across the province, seven in 10 residents (70%) foresee a positive economic impact from LNG Canada’s liquefied natural gas export project in Kitimat. As expected, those who live and work in northern BC (86%) are more likely to anticipate a positive economic impact from LNG Canada’s project, but the numbers are also high for residents located far from the construction site: 67% in Metro Vancouver and 56% in Vancouver Island.

The research also shows that at least three in five Canadians have a positive opinion of four energy sources: wind (80%), hydropower (76%), natural gas (69%) and geothermal (61%). The lowest ranked energy source for Canadians is coal, at 24%.

Discussions about climate change have intensified in recent years, and three in five Canadians (60%) believe Canada has a responsibility to “export natural gas to reduce greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) in other countries.” LNG can displace the use of coal – the lowest ranked energy source in the survey – for power generation, thereby reducing global GHGs.

There are two issues that would make a majority of residents more likely to support resource development projects in British Columbia. The most important characteristic is “ensuring that the impact on the environment is limited.” Almost three in five residents (57%) say that achieving this goal would make them more likely to support a specific resource development project.

More than half of British Columbians (53%) say they would be more likely to support a resource development project that guarantees “that Canadians will get the first opportunity to work.”

These two broad themes – environmental stewardship and jobs for Canadians – succeed in garnering the backing of many British Columbians. A slightly smaller proportion of residents (46%) would be more likely to endorse a resource development project that provided “training and apprenticeship opportunities for young Canadians.”

Two in five British Columbians (40%) would be more likely to support a resource development project that both created “thousands of full-time and part-time jobs” and “contributed billions of dollars in taxes and revenues.”

More than a third of British Columbians (37%) say that a project that has “the support of the majority of First Nations in the area that it is located in” would earn their approval.

Finally, when asked about their stance on a project that “specific groups have staged protests against,” the numbers fluctuate wildly. Only 17% of British Columbians would be more likely to endorse a project on this basis alone, and 22% say the protests would actually make them less supportive.

Two groups stand out in their position: 23% of British Columbians aged 55 and over and 23% of those who reside in northern B.C. say protests would actually make them more supportive of resource development projects.

Residents of northern B.C. are also more likely to express dismay over “nothing getting built in British Columbia” (67%, compared to the provincial average of 51%), more likely to believe that the province’s reputation “is harmed by protests against resource development projects “ (68%, compared to the provincial average of 52%) and more likely to state that the provincial economy “would suffer if we cannot build resource development projects” (74%, compared to the provincial average of 63%).

Unanimity, as a guiding concept for the approval of resource development projects, is practically unattainable. There is a sizeable difference in perceptions related to resource development on a geographic basis, and British Columbians who could be the primary beneficiaries of some of these projects are currently upset with the idea of stagnation.

Mario Canseco is president of Research Co.

 

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