And the polls say… undecided and divided

And the polls say… undecided and divided

The Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain Pipeline controversy/crisis/debacle continues to eat the news cycle, at least in this part of the world.

And with that continuing attention, public opinion is perhaps beginning to be a bit more clear. The polling company Angus Reid released their latest numbers this week and it appears that, at least Canada-wide, public opinion is lining up in a pro-pipeline direction.

The latest polling says that 64 per cent of Canadians say that B.C. is wrong to oppose the expansion of the Trans Mountain line. That’s up nine per cent from February.

General support for the pipeline is also up — to 55 per cent from 49.

And right here at home, that support is evident as well. Angus Reid reports that support for the pipeline expansion has risen in B.C. as well, though not quite as much as nationally. 54 per cent of B.C. residents now support it. That’s up from 48 per cent in February. That support drops in Metro Vancouver and the Island to about 50 per cent and stands at 60 per cent in the rest of the province. That is perfectly understandable, as the polling also shows that the major concern/fear around the pipeline is not the pipeline itself, but the potential for a tanker spill in the waters off Vancouver. By a five to one margin, that is what British Columbians say is the biggest fear.

But these are not numbers of overwhelming support, indicating that as a whole, we remain deeply divided and uncertain.

Some 35 per cent say the environmental risk outweighs the economic benefit. The same number (35%) say the opposite, and the rest (30%) say the risks and benefits are about equal, Angus Reid reports.

If a politician is looking to the polls for an indication of which way the wind blows, they aren’t going to get much direction from that.

And have no doubt about it, this pipeline issue is definitely forming opinion on the major political players.

The problem is, most of that opinion is trending down.

The only leader getting slightly positive numbers is Alberta’s Rachel Notley. 42 per cent of Canadians say she is doing a good job with her tough stance on the pipeline and threats to turn off the tap to B.C. But surprisingly, and of likely great concern to Notley, in Alberta itself only 54 per cent say she’s doing a good job, while 39 per cent say she’s doing a bad one. That’s fairly brutal. Notley, though an NDPer, has been unequivocally tough from the outset, insisting the pipeline will be build, even offering Alberta money to see it through (Angus Reid says that offer of public money may be the problem). That fact that she is not getting higher numbers in her own province should be of some concern to someone facing an election next year.

Also facing an election next year is Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, and he can’t be taking much solace from the polls either. Trudeau has managed to perform the difficult task of having both sides of the dispute disliking his handling of it.

When a politician tries to walk the line and play both sides so as not to offend, the desired outcome is not that both sides dislike you. But that appears to be the case. 60 per cent of British Columbians give Trudeau’s handling of the crisis a thumbs down. That is bested in Alberta, where a full 71 per cent of those polled give his performance a negative assessment.

And even though Albertans are predisposed to dislike a Trudeau, that’s gotta sting.

Trudeau heads to Halifax to the Liberal National Convention this weekend, and even in those friendly confines, he’s going to have a bit of work to get his team as enthusiastic as they were four years ago. Let’s be honest, the last six months or so have been absolutely brutal for Trudeau, from Indian dress up, to a botched delivery of small business tax changes to perceived weakness on the pipeline issue. He needs to right the ship quickly.

But back to the polls.

Premier John Horgan is not getting the bounce in public support he may have hoped for either. His ratings are lukewarm at best, and he hangs on to a very narrow majority of public opinion — perhaps in keeping with the very narrow majority by which he clings to power. 45 per cent of British Columbians say he is doing a good job. 44 per cent of British Columbians say not so much.

The poll also asked if the pipeline expansion ends up being a key election issue in B.C., which party’s candidate would you support. The answer — BC Liberal 29 per cent, NDP, 24 per cent, Green 10 per cent, leaving a whopping 29 per cent undecided.

And that’s where we stand, undecided and divided.