Enbridge claims environmental poll wording about Northern Gateway is misleading

Post Date


Vancouver B.C. (9 February 2014) — Yesterday afternoon, Enbridge released a video with the apparent purpose of discrediting a public opinion poll about the Northern Gateway pipelines and tanker proposal. 

The video takes the position that 
activist groups released a misleading poll claiming a majority of B.C. residents is against the Northern Gateway Pipeline. According to Enbridge, these activists misrepresented the facts.

Justason Market Intelligence (JMI) conducted this poll.

Enbridge cites the following as inaccurate:

Up until now, crude oil supertankers have not entered B.C.’s inside passage…. The federal government is now considering allowing crude oil supertankers in these waters.

It’s no surprise this statement is misleading. Enbridge themselves deleted the reference to oil spills and the rest of the question. Here is the entire question presented to B.C. residents: 

Up until now, crude oil supertankers have not entered B.C.’s inside passage because of concerns about oil spills. The federal government is now considering allowing crude oil supertankers in these waters. Do you support or oppose allowing crude oil supertankers through B.C.’s northern inside coastal waters?

In fact, Enbridge wants the viewer to know they object to the words “inside passage” to describe the waterways tankers would travel.

Fair enough. Tankers will travel through only part of the waters known formally as The Inside Passage. However, tankers will travel waters colloquially known as the inner or inside passage, the region between the major islands (of Haida Gwaii and Vancouver Island) and the mainland. We also use “northern inside coastal waters” and “coastal inlets of the Great Bear Rainforest” to describe this region. Nonetheless, JMI will update the question accordingly in future polling. (Enbridge stated in the Joint Review Panel that the region known formally as The Inside Passage is not a part of their current transport plans. However, these statements are neither legally binding nor enforceable.)

Will swapping out these words change the research findings? Of course not.

We’ve asked the questions four times over the past two years. Consistently, two-thirds of B.C. residents oppose Northern Gateway’s plan to introduce crude oil tankers to B.C.’s northern coastal waters.

Leave aside our work for the moment.

Our colleagues locally and nationally also cover this topic. Polls that present the project without mentioning tankers generally find fewer than half of BCers supportive: 47% in the most recent Maple Leaf Strategies survey and 42% in Insights West’s November 2013 poll.

Why the difference from our 29% support figures? B.C. residents are more concerned about tankers travelling along the B.C. coast than they are about pipelines. Less than half of B.C. residents support the proposal when discussing just the pipeline. When reminded that tankers are part of their proposal, support drops about 20 points. We raised this nearly two years ago in an oped to The Vancouver Sun, “Oil Tankers, not pipelines, are the hot potato issue.”

As we said in April 2012, “If the researcher asks British Columbians about pipelines, about 50 per cent are relatively tolerant right now. If the researcher asks about pipelines and supertankers, tolerance diminishes.”

B.C. residents are an intelligent and engaged community. More and more BCers are coming to understand that the only way to transport piped crude oil from Kitimat is in tankers through inside coastal waters. This worries residents and our polling has captured this concern since March 2012.

In another complaint, Enbridge again excludes the rest of our question when they claim we misled respondents by stating:

Some people say our governments are best able to make informed decisions about proposals like Enbridge’s pipelines and tanker proposal without involving the public.”

Here is the excluded portion:

Others say that the public should participate in decision making processes like this. Which is closer to your view?”

The video’s producers cherry-picked words, not questions, from our poll. In one question they object to two words from the array of information respondents would consider. In the other, Enbridge themselves mislead the viewer by sharing half of the argument and none of the question. In the process they seek to discredit our work and damage our reputation.

To be clear, Justason Market Intelligence is not an activist firm. Our clients include the range of organizations with operations in British Columbia including corporations, governments, commercial and residential developers, not-for-profits and industry associations. We work with major employers in all sectors of the economy, including the energy and natural resource sectors.

Enbridge has not engaged in a substantive critique of the value of our research. Instead, their video attempts to distract discussion from B.C. residents’ meaningful concern about a plan that would bring supertankers to British Columbia’s northern coastal waters.

Will this tactic work?

The genie is out of the bottle. As we have reported for two years, public concern about tankers along B.C.’s coast is not going away. A defamatory attack on a small piece of our body of work will not assuage public concern.

Polling firms haven’t caused this concern. Environmental and activist groups haven’t either. Enbridge would serve itself and its constituents far better by acknowledging and addressing significant public concern about a plan that will impact British Columbia’s coast.

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1. February 4 Release: Opposition to supertankers in BC’s inside coastal waters continues
2. Questions and charts

For more information contact:

Barb Justason, Principal
Justason Market Intelligence Inc.
Direct: +1 604 783 4165
Email: Barb@JustasonMI.com
web: JustasonMI.com     
twitter: barbjustason


About Justason Market Intelligence

Justason Market Intelligence Inc. (JMI) is a B.C.-based market and opinion research firm. The firm offers the complete range of of survey research and qualitative methodologies. The firm operates Vancouver Focus®. Since its founding in 2003, clients have included BC Oil and Gas Commission, Walmart, Smart Centres, BC Hydro, Fortis BC, municipalities, first nations communities, all levels of government and not-for-profit organizations.

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