Canadians back shift to renewable energy, remain anxious about energy costs: poll
More Canadians think combating climate change, not job creation, should lead the country's decisions on energy development.
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OTTAWA—More Canadians believe the country, when faced with decisions on major resource projects like pipelines, should be guided more by combating climate change than creating jobs, a new poll commissioned by the federal government suggests.
But while the data shows broad support for developing renewable sources of energy and reducing emissions, a significant number of respondents remain anxious about energy affordability.
These two “silos” of Canadians suggests energy and the environment will remain tricky political files for the Liberals, as they move closer to implementing a national price on carbon emissions.
The poll, conducted in June 2017 and released last week, found that 34 per cent of Canadians think reducing greenhouse gas emissions should be a “guiding principle” in developing natural resources. That principle is followed by “keeping energy affordable” (25 per cent), ensuring safe production and transportation of energy (20 per cent), generating more energy jobs (10 per cent) and getting energy products to market (10 per cent).
“The values people chose could be grouped into two silos—those relating to safety and the environment (including climate change) and those that related more to jobs and affordability,” the report, prepared by Environics Research, reads.
“In general, there was a tendency to put a higher value on the environment, but many also expressed concern about the costs of energy.”
The polling firm did find a unifying value between the two groups, however: that Canada has an opportunity to grow its economy through the “clean technology sector.”
An overwhelming majority of respondents supported renewable energy sources, such as solar (93 per cent), hydro electricity (91 per cent) and wind projects (86 per cent). Support for non-renewable energy, such as oil (63 per cent) and nuclear power (45 per cent), was considerably weaker.
Those numbers largely reflect where Canadians see demand for energy going in the future. Only 34 per cent of respondents thought demand for oil and gas will increase, while between 59 and 82 per cent expected demand for various renewables to increase.
“When participants were asked to consider potential trade-offs between affordability and the environment in Canada’s energy future, many had difficulty understanding why these goals might conflict with one another,” the report reads.
That’s likely good news for the governing Liberals, who have tried to walk a line between approving major natural resource projects and putting forward a credible plan to combat climate change.
“We are in the midst of an energy transformation that will require all sources of energy to ensure Canada is a global leader in the low-carbon economy,” wrote Alexandre Deslongchamps, a spokesperson for Natural Resources Minister Jim Carr, in an email to the Star.
“We want to leverage the traditional resources we have today to deliver clean-energy solutions for tomorrow.”
A spokesperson for Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer refused to comment.
“We don’t comment on public polling,” wrote Jake Enwright.
Earlier this month, Environment Minister Catherine McKenna released draft legislation for the Liberals’ national carbon pricing framework. The plan imposes a minimum price of $20 per tonne in 2019, growing steadily to $50 per tonne in 2022.
Provinces that meet or exceed Ottawa’s targets can continue their own efforts, but provinces that refuse to take action — currently, only Saskatchewan — would have the federal price imposed on them.
The Environics poll surveyed 2,218 Canadians between June 7 and June 14, 2017, and is considered accurate to within 2.1 percentage points.
With a file from the Canadian Press