08/03/2012 08:48 EDT | Updated 10/03/2012 05:12 EDT

Christy Clark's Northern Gateway Strategy Not Paying Off In Polls


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, covering Canadian politics, polls and electoral projections.

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