Canadians pick sides on Trans Mountain pipeline purchase

Angus Reid polled Canadians on the Trudeau TransMountain pipeline deal.  The results show the majority of Canadians are split down the middle on the issue and 26 per cent of those asked are unsure.  TransMountain photo.  

Angus Reid polled Canadians on the Trudeau Trans Mountain pipeline deal.  The results show the majority of Canadians are split down the middle on the issue and 26 per cent of those asked are unsure.  Trans Mountain photo.  

Trans Mountain pipeline: Good investment or bad precedent?

The Trans Mountain pipeline saga has had enough twists and turns to rival its potential path from Edmonton to the Burrard Inlet. The latest – a decision by the federal government to purchase the project from Kinder Morgan – has split Canadians down the middle, according to new public opinion polling from the Angus Reid Institute.

The poll finds equal numbers of Canadians saying the government made the right decision and the wrong decision (37 per cent take each side), while a significant portion of the population is unsure (26 per cent).

The debate rages on. Two-thirds of those who say the government made the right decision in buying the pipeline feel this way because they believe the project will be a good investment for Canadian taxpayers (66 per cent). Opponents, on the other hand, say that the government has set a bad precedent for future resource projects by taking control of this one (64 per cent).

More Key Findings:

  • British Columbia residents mirror the national average on opinions of the government’s decision to buy Trans Mountain – 38 per cent say it was right and 38 per cent say it was wrong. Half of Alberta residents (51 per cent) say the Liberals got it right while 28 per cent disagree.
  • Overall support for the project is in line with previous Angus Reid Institute tracking. Roughly six-in-ten (57 per cent) support Trans Mountain, up marginally from 55 per cent in April.
  • Canadians are split close to evenly when asked if the government has done a good job on this file. Four-in-ten say they have (39 per cent), slightly more say they have done a poor job (42 per cent). Men are much more positive than women.

Right or wrong call? Canadians weigh in on their reasoning

When Finance Minister Bill Morneau and Natural Resource Minister Jim Carr sat in the National Press Theatre on May 29 to announce the federal government purchase of the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion and related infrastructure, they likely anticipated some political blowback.

It didn’t take long for Conservative and Opposition leader Andrew Scheer to seize on the opportunity. He and Shadow Finance Minister Pierre Poilievre were quick to accuse the government of failing to exercise constitutional rights and exhaust other options before purchasing the project. Protestors joined the government in objecting, staging protests across the country in response to the announcement.

However, not everyone was upset. The government suggested that the project would be a “sound investment opportunity” and would ensure the creation of jobs for Canadian workers. Alberta Premier Rachel Notley praised the plan, and a pro-pipeline rally was also held in Calgary in response to the announcement.

These two sides of the debate apparently have equal footing in the Canadian public discourse. In fact, asked whether the government made the right or wrong choice in going forward with this Trans Mountain purchase, exactly 37 per cent take each side. One-in-four Canadians remain unsure (26 per cent).

The decision is polarizing across the country, with British Columbians split evenly and at least three-in-ten on each side of the debate in every region but Alberta, as seen in the graph that follows.

Even in Alberta, where this poll finds 82 per cent of residents voicing support for the pipeline project itself, only slightly more than 50 per cent believe the government made the right call.

Notably, just 47 per cent of Trudeau’s 2015 Liberal supporters say this was the right choice. Further, men are much more supportive of the decision than women:

For supporters, much of their motivation lies in a belief that the project is a good investment for taxpayers. Two-thirds say this (66 per cent) while another 50 per cent say that the government had no choice but to step in to save the project:


As for those who are opposed, their reasoning is primarily rooted in the precedent that this decision sets. More than six-in-ten (64 per cent) say that the government should not be in the business of owing pipelines, and should not be offering this type of recourse as an option for struggling projects. Another four-in-ten (39 per cent) say that the price tag was simply too high.


Perhaps the best exemplification of the tension over this decision is among those who say they outright support the pipeline. While just over half (56 per cent) say that this was the right route for the government pursue, one-quarter say it was the wrong decision (24 per cent) and 20 per cent are unsure. Opponents are much more unified:

Support for pipeline, division on federal performance

The aforementioned support for the pipeline has grown over the past six months. Since February of this year, support has risen eight percentage points, while opposition has dropped seven:

Further, those who feel strongly in support of Trans Mountain have seen their ranks grow by 11 percentage points, while those who are most in opposition have seen stagnation:


That isn’t to say that things are rosy in Ottawa given how events have unfolded. Just seven per cent of Canadians say that the government has done a very good job, compared to twice that many (16 per cent) who say they have handled it very poorly.

Overall, 39 per cent say the government has done a good job, while 42 per cent say they have done a poor job.


Again, there are political and gender differences on this assessment. Men are much more likely than women to say that the government has done a good job, as are 2015 Liberal voters compared to their Conservative and New Democrat counterparts:



Majority oppose B.C.’s resistance, even in B.C.

The federal purchase of the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion and assets has apparently done little to change the approach of British Columbia’s NDP government. Premier John Horgan announced that his province will continue its legal strategy to oppose pipeline and address concerns over coastal spills.

This decision is at odds with a majority of Canadians’ views, and indeed, those of Horgan’s own province.

Six-in-ten Canadians say they feel the government is wrong to oppose the expansion, down slightly from 64 per cent in April. In British Columbia, more than half of residents (56 per cent) say the government is taking the wrong stance:

Horgan’s provincial New Democratic Party finds support among those who support the party federally. Here, six-in-ten (62 per cent) say that his government is doing the right thing, while two-thirds of federal Liberal supporters and four-in-five Conservatives disagree:


METHODOLOGY: The Angus Reid Institute conducted an online survey from June 7 – 10 among a representative randomized sample of 1,021 Canadian adults who are members of Angus Reid Forum. For comparison purposes only, a probability sample of this size would carry a margin of error of +/- 3.1 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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