A slim majority of Canadians say the country's lack of an increased pipeline capacity is a "crisis," a new poll suggests.
New data from the Angus Reid Institute points to national concerns about the lack of new pipeline projects in Canada and division in public attitudes toward the federal government's handling of the situation.
Fifty-eight per cent of respondents in the institute's new survey, released Wednesday, say the situation constitutes a "crisis." A similar percentage said failing to boost pipeline capacity will have a "major" or "considerable" effect on their province's and Canada's economy.
This sentiment is strongest in Alberta and seen in every province except Quebec, the poll said, where the majority disagreed with describing the situation as a "crisis."
Shachi Kurl, the polling firm's executive director, told HuffPost Canada she's noticed a "gelling or a hardening of opinion" on the pipeline question from respondents in certain parts of the country this time around.
"[In previous polls] the issue was met with something of a collective shrug, with the exception of Alberta where people felt very strongly about [pipelines] and in B.C. where people are profoundly divided on the issue and in Quebec where people are very opposed to pipelines."
"Now, we're starting to see a heightened level of awareness or a heightened level of engagement on the issue, and that I think, that's newer. That's something I haven't noticed before."
Kurl said certain findings in the poll, such as one that showed oil and gas was considered the most important sector of the economy to 65 per cent of respondents, point to a "heightened" awareness of the issue.
She said anti-pipeline movements, as well as Alberta Premier Rachel Notley's pro-pipeline PR campaign, have also boosted the topic to the public's attention.
Watch: Protests erupt across Canada in support of anti-pipeline blockade
"I don't think [the awareness has] done anything to people who oppose the pipeline, and there are many in this country who do ... but what we're seeing is others in Canada jumping off the fence and we're starting to see where they land," Kurl said.
The findings are sure to be salt to the wound for the federal Liberals, who are stepping into an election year still unable to complete the contentious Trans Mountain pipeline expansion — a project the government purchased for $4.5 billion after failing to assuage political worries Kinder Morgan, the pipeline's parent company, had about its prospects.
The expansion, which would twin an existing pipeline from Alberta to B.C., hit a roadblock last year when the Federal Court of Appeal shot down the National Energy Board's approval for the project. The court said there was not enough consultation with Indigenous communities or considerations for the expansion's effects on marine life.
Half feel feds 'doing too little' for pipelines
Fifty-three per cent of respondents in the survey expressed support for Trans Mountain, as well as Energy East, another failed project that would have transported western oil to Quebec and foreign markets.
Trans Mountain's expansion has also opened a rift with former provincial allies for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, like Notley, and has served as political hammer for the Opposition Conservatives. Trudeau's carbon pricing plan, meanwhile, has also given conservative politicians in Saskatchewan, Ontario, Manitoba and New Brunswick plenty of fodder.
When it comes to how the government is handling the construction of new pipelines in Canada, half of the respondents in the Angus Reid Institute's poll said the Liberals were "doing too little" while 27 per cent said they are "pushing too hard." Twenty-three per cent said the approach was adequate.
The government is currently waiting for the National Energy Board's final review of the project, which is due Feb. 22, before proceeding.
Feds' 'tightrope walk' getting trickier: Kurl
Kurl said the findings point to a growing challenge for Trudeau and his Liberals this year.
"In this election year, the tightrope walk gets even trickier for any federal leader, but especially for Justin Trudeau," she said.
"To be the leader who goes into Atlantic Canada or goes into Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta and says 'hey, I'm pro-pipeline. We're going to get the [Trans Mountain] pipeline completed on my watch,' that's all fine, but he's running into a brick wall of opposition on this front in Quebec."
And even though support for pipelines is strongest in Alberta, Kurl argued that Trudeau's stance on the projects won't do him any favours there.
"It's not as though diehard Conservative voters who happen to be on the same side of the issue with him are suddenly going to vote Liberal as a result," she said.
The polling firm's survey was conducted online Dec. 21, 2018-Jan. 3, 2019, among a representative randomized sample of 4,024 Canadian adults who are members of the Angus Reid Forum. For comparison purposes only, a similar poll with this sample frame would carry a margin of error of plus or minus 2.5 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.