VANCOUVER - B.C. Premier Christy Clark has brushed aside polling results from this week that show her popularity lags far behind the opposition NDP, despite her high-profile battle to win a better share of the predicted windfall if the proposed Northern Gateway pipeline is approved.
"I think the poll that is actually going to matter is the one about a year from now when we get to election day and that's the one that will determine who is in government the year after that," Clark said in her first meeting with reporters since her dramatic performance at a premiers' meeting last week.
She walked out on the final day.
But while pollster Mario Canseco, vice-president of Angus Reid, says a good, old-fashioned intergovernmental spat has been good politics for other leaders, this one hasn't given Clark much of a boost.
Under different circumstances, the premier's position on Northern Gateway and her dispute with Alberta Premier Alison Redford would have worked in her favour, he said.
An Angus Reid survey earlier this week found 59 per cent of the 804 British Columbians surveyed online opposed the pipeline, which would carry crude oil along 1,170 kilometres from Alberta to the B.C. coast where it would be shipped to foreign markets.
But the governing Liberals' popularity dropped by one per cent since last month, according to another online survey done by the pollster early this week and released Friday.
That survey showed the British Columbians questioned regard NDP Leader Adrian Dix as the preferred next premier.
Of the 804 respondents, 49 per cent said they would vote NDP, 22 per cent said they would vote Liberal, and 19 per cent said they would cast their vote for the B.C. Conservatives if a provincial election were held tomorrow.
The survey results have a margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.
Canseco pointed to the case of former Newfoundland Premier Danny Williams, whose popularity rose significantly in 2004 when he removed Canadian flags from provincial buildings after a dispute over offshore royalties with the federal government.
The difference for Clark is she is nowhere near as popular as Williams was, said Canseco.
He said the B.C. Liberals's popularity has remained relatively low, around 22 and 23 per cent, in the past three months.
The fact that many party members have announced they aren't running for re-election and the defection of one Liberal to the B.C. Conservatives has impacted Clark's credibility, Canseco said.
"By picking a fight, when you're not really popular, and...never been tested in an election as a leader for the B.C. Liberals, it's more difficult to use that to your advantage," he said.
"There are a lot of people skeptical of her leadership, a large base in the B.C. Liberals is abandoning her because of her leadership style, so this [feud with Alberta and the federal government] isn't something that's going to resonate dramatically."
Clark said Friday her stance on the pipeline project has not changed despite the poll numbers, and despite the fact that Redford has not yet shown any interest in discussing financial compensation for B.C.
"Alberta and the federal government have to come to the table with British Columbia to talk about making sure B.C. gets its fair share and to talk about how we're going to protect our environment to the best standards of the world," Clark told reporters.
"Once they do that, we can start talking about the issues. But if they don't do it, the pipeline will not happen."
Syncrude Upgrader and Oil Sands
The refining or upgrading of the tarry bitumen which lies under the oil sands consumes far more oil and energy than conventional oil and produces almost twice as much carbon. Each barrel of oil requires 3-5 barrels of fresh water from the neighboring Athabasca River. About 90% of this is returned as toxic tailings into the vast unlined tailings ponds that dot the landscape. Syncrude alone dumps 500,000 tons of toxic tailings into just one of their tailings ponds everyday.
Boreal Forest and Coast Mountains / Atlin Lake, British Columbia | 2001
This area, located in the extreme northwest of British Columbia, marks the western boundary of the Boreal region. On the border of the Yukon and Southeast Alaska, the western flank of these mountains descends into Alaska's Tongass Rainforest and British Columbia's Great Bear Rainforest. Far from the oil sands, the greatest remaining coastal temperate and marine ecosystem is imminently threatened by the proposal to build a 750-mile pipeline to pump 550,000 barrels per day of oil sands crude to the coast. Once there, it would be shipped through some of the most treacherous waters, virtually assuring an ecological disaster at some point in the future.
Tailings Pond in Winter, Abstract #2 / Alberta Tar Sands | 2010
Even in the extreme cold of the winter, the toxic tailings ponds do not freeze. On one particularly cold morning, the partially frozen tailings, sand, liquid tailings and oil residue, combined to produce abstractions that reminded me of a Jackson Pollock canvas.
Aspen and Spruce | Northern Alberta | 2001
Photographed in late autumn in softly falling snow, a solitary spruce is set against a sea of aspen. The Boreal Forest of northern Canada is perhaps the best and largest example of a largely intact forest ecosystem. Canada's Boreal Forest alone stores an amount of carbon equal to ten times the total annual global emissions from all fossil fuel consumption.
Tar Sands at Night #1 | Alberta Oil Sands | 2010
Twenty four hours a day the oil sands eats into the most carbon rich forest ecosystem on the planet. Storing almost twice as much carbon per hectare as tropical rainforests, the boreal forest is the planet's greatest terrestrial carbon storehouse. To the industry, these diverse and ecologically significant forests and wetlands are referred to as overburden, the forest to be stripped and the wetlands dredged and replaced by mines and tailings ponds so vast they can be seen from outer space.
Dry Tailings #2 | Alberta Tar Sands | 2010
In an effort to deal with the problem of tailings ponds, Suncor is experimenting with dry tailings technology. This has the potential to limit, or eliminate, the need for vast tailings ponds in the future and lessen this aspect of the oil sands' impact.
Tailings Pond Abstract #2 | Alberta Tar Sands / 2010
So large are the Alberta Tar Sands tailings ponds that they can be seen from space. It has been estimated by Natural Resources Canada that the industry to date has produced enough toxic waste to fill a canal 32 feet deep by 65 feet wide from Fort McMurray to Edmonton, and on to Ottawa, a distance of over 2,000 miles. In this image, the sky is reflected in the toxic and oily waste of a tailings pond.
Confluence of Carcajou River and Mackenzie River | Mackenzie Valley, NWT | 2005
The Caracajou River winds back and forth creating this oxbow of wetlands as it joins the Mackenzie flowing north to the Beaufort Sea. This region, almost entirely pristine, and the third largest watershed basin in the world, will be directly impacted by the proposed Mackenzie Valley National Gas Pipeline to fuel the energy needs of the Alberta Oil Sands mega-project.
Black Cliff | Alberta Oil Sands | 2005
Oil sands pit mining is done in benches or steps. These benches are each approximately 12-15 meters high. Giant shovels dig the oil sand and place it into heavy hauler trucks that range in size from 240 tons to the largest trucks, which have a 400-ton capacity.
Oil Sands Upgrader in Winter| Alberta Oil Sands | 2010
The Alberta oil sands are Canada's single largest source of carbon. They produce about as much annually as the nation of Denmark. The refining of the tar-like bitumen requires more water and uses almost twice as much energy as the production of conventional oil. Particularly visible in winter, vast plumes of toxic pollution fill the skies. The oil sands are so large they create their own weather systems.
Boreal Forest and Wetland | Athabasca Delta Northern Alberta | 2010
Located just 70 miles downstream from the Alberta oil sands, the Athabasca Delta is the world's largest freshwater delta. It lies at the convergence of North America's four major flyways and is a critical stopover for migrating waterfowl and considered one of the most globally significant wetlands. It is threatened both by the massive water consumption of the tar sands and its toxic tailings ponds.
Tar Pit #3
This network of roads reminded me of a claw or tentacles. It represents for me the way in which the tentacles of the tar sands reach out and wreak havoc and destruction. Proposed pipelines to American Midwest, Mackenzie Valley, and through the Great Bear Rainforest will bring new threats to these regions while the pipelines fuel new markets and ensure the proposed five fold expansion of the oil sands.