Few British Columbians support the building of the Northern Gateway pipeline through their province, but Christy Clark's stance against its construction has not improved her electoral chances.
Two polls conducted this week by Angus Reid and Forum Research suggest a majority of British Columbians oppose the project. The survey by Forum found 65 per cent of respondents oppose the pipeline, while 59 per cent in the Angus-Reid poll were completely opposed to it or were opposed, but could change their mind.
The extra bit of nuance in Angus Reid's survey is interesting. Though 35 per cent were completely opposed to the pipeline another 24 per cent said their opinion could change, based on environmental and economic considerations. Only seven per cent said they supported the pipeline unreservedly, while another 27 per cent said they supported it but could also change their mind.
That makes several interpretations possible. It can be said that 34 per cent support the building of the pipeline to some degree, while 59 per cent oppose it. At the same time, 51 per cent of British Columbians are willing to change their minds on the issue, leaving a fair degree of wiggle room for Premier Clark.
She certainly needs it. The Forum poll found support for her B.C. Liberal Party standing at only 23 per cent, less than half of that garnered by opposition New Democrats (49 per cent). The B.C. Conservatives, at 18 per cent, are still eating up a lot of the vote that could go Clark's way.
The province is split on Clark's pipeline position: 37 per cent are satisfied with it, but 43 per cent are not, according to Angus Reid. The NDP's Adrian Dix, who is dead set against Northern Gateway, meets the satisfaction of 35 per cent of respondents, while only 27 per cent are dissatisfied. But Clark would gladly take 37 per cent of the vote at this stage - even the 26 per cent who favour the building of the pipeline in Forum's poll would be an improvement.
But the pipeline is only part of the equation. If built, it will stretch to the B.C. coast where oil tankers will finish the trip across the Pacific. Opposition to having oil tankers off the coast of British Columbia is also quite strong, with Angus Reid finding 51 per cent think they should probably or definitely be banned, while Forum reports 49 per cent approve of a law prohibiting oil tanker traffic. A smaller proportion, 37 per cent, would disapprove of such a law.
With a disapproval rating hovering around 60 per cent, Clark's opposition to the pipeline might have been the Hail Mary pass she needed to turn things around for her. That still might happen, but her strategy has so far had little effect on her own fortunes.
Éric Grenier taps The Pulse of federal and regional politics for Huffington Post Canada readers on most Tuesdays and Fridays. Grenier is the author of ThreeHundredEight.com, covering Canadian politics, polls and electoral projections.
Michelle S Reid
Sheila Gunn Reid
Top 5 Provincial Resource Spats
Before the $5.5-billion Northern Gateway pipeline contract is even inked, not to mention approved by a federal panel, a heated quarrel has erupted between Alberta and British Columbia about divvying up the revenues.<br><br>It's not the first time in Canada that resources have spurred disputes between neighbouring provinces. And it likely won't be the last.<br><br>Here's a look at just a few examples of provincial spats, including the Alberta-B.C. one, over issues ranging from human to energy resources.<br><br> <em>With files from CBC</em>
Northern Gateway Pipeline
Alberta vs. British Columbia<br><br>In the dispute over the proposed Enbridge pipeline, B.C. is calling for a share in the project's revenue to compensate it for the potential environmental risks inherent in running a crude oil pipeline across its land. Alberta has refused to share royalties, citing a province's right to income from natural resources within its own borders.<br><br>The proposal involves two pipelines, stretching a combined 1,177-kilometres, that would carry 525,000 barrels of oil per day from the Alberta oilsands to the ports on the West Coast. Enbridge has estimated that public benefits would amount to $2.6 billion in local, provincial and federal tax revenues over 30 years of operation. Environmental groups and aboriginal communities have opposed the proposed pipeline, particularly over worries of an oil spill.
Upper Churchill Falls Hydro Project
Newfoundland vs. Quebec<br><br>Perhaps the most famous inter-provincial skirmish is the Upper Churchill Falls hydroelectric project. It's a battle that has raged between Quebec and Newfoundland and Labrador for more than half a century.<br><br>In 1969, Churchill Falls Labrador Corp. signed a deal with Hydro-Quebec that secured the creation of a power corridor through Quebec, enabling access to outside markets. In return, Newfoundland and Labrador agreed to sell a large portion of the electricity at a fixed rate until 2041 to Hydro-Quebec, the provincially owned utility.<br><br>The 65-year agreement did not account for inflation, nor the drastic rise in energy prices that was to come. Hydro-Quebec benefitted from the cheap price, profiting as it sold on the electricity to the U.S. and refused repeatedly to renegotiate the contract.<br><br>A 1996 report by Maclean's magazine found Newfoundland received $20 million a year by selling power to Hydro-Quebec, but the utility earned $800 million annually by selling that same power to hungry U.S. markets along the eastern seabord.<br><br>Since the 1970s, Newfoundland and Labrador has repeatedly tried to challenge the contract, seeking help from the federal government to the Supreme Court.
Ontario vs. Quebec<br><br>In the late 1970s, Ontario and Quebec began a tit-for-tat dispute over construction workers crossing the border to work in each other's province.<br><br>Dubbed the Ontario-Quebec Construction War in some newspaper accounts, the tiff appears to have started when Quebec enacted restrictions in 1978 effectively barring Ontario construction workers from certain projects there. Ontario sought to retaliate with similar rules. Thus began a political dispute that lasted decades, flare-ups often fuelled by economic downturns.<br><br>Quebec's highly-regulated construction industry has historically deterred Ontario workers wanting to work in Quebec -- while also driving Quebec workers into the more open Ontario.<br><br>Frustrated by the flow of workers into Ontario, Ontario enacted a Fairness is a Two-Way Street Act in 1999, barring Quebec construction workers from Ontario government projects. The two provinces eventually settled their differences in 2006 with a construction mobility agreement.
Ontario vs. Manitoba<br><br>In Canada's early days, as boundaries were still being carved out, Ontario and Manitoba clashed for years over a tract of land on the western and northern boundaries of Ontario that each claimed as its own. An 1883 New York Times article described "frequent disgraceful conflicts" that "stopped short of bloodshed."<br><br>The tract was rich in timber and minerals, and also contained a port on Lake Superior.<br><br>In 1880, Manitoba extended its boundaries, with the federal government confirming them the next year.<br><br>But Ontario did not agree, saying the extension gave the disputed area to Manitoba. Confusion reigned in the disputed area as it lacked not only civil courts and a registry office to record deeds, but a timber agent to protect the forest. The U.K. judicial committee of the Privy Council finally weighed in. In 1889, the boundary of Ontario was extended west of Lake of the Woods and north to Albany River.
National Energy Program
Alberta vs. Ottawa (and Ontario and Quebec)<br><br>In the wake of the energy crisis in the late-1970s, when the OPEC nations raised the price of oil, the Trudeau government introduced the National Energy Program, basically to equalize the price of oil in Canada and offset higher prices being paid the central and Atlantic provinces.<br><br>Highly unpopular in Western Canada, particularly in Alberta where most of Canada's oil is produced, the NEP sought to increase the federal share of energy revenues and make Canada a self-sufficient oil producer. Alberta viewed the program as an intrusion into provincial control over natural resources, as set out in the British North America Act, then the country's constitution.<br><br>Peter Lougheed, the Alberta premier at the time, retaliated against Ottawa by cutting provincial oil production. The fight caused huge uncertainty in the oil patch and essentially pitted the Western province against Eastern Canada. Lougheed said the federal government effectively "weighed Alberta's needs for markets against the economic advantages to Eastern Canada, and decided against us."<br><br>Eventually Lougheed and Trudeau signed a revised energy agreement in 1981, whch rejigged the revenue-sharing arrangement and reduced the NEP export tax on Alberta.<br><br>In 1982, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled Ottawa couldn't legally tax provincially owned oil and gas wells and the last vestiges of the controversial program were scrapped after Conservative Brian Mulroney was elected in 1984.