Pipelines are second only to the economy on the list of concerns for B.C. residents, according to a new public opinion survey.
Vancouver-based Strategic Communications asked B.C. residents via telephone last month what they believed the top concern facing the province was. Unprompted by a list of suggested issues, 14.9 per cent of people listed the economy as the top issue, followed closely by pipelines at 14.1 per cent and healthcare at 12.2 per cent.
Pollster Bob Penner said it's unusual for a single issue like the pipeline debate to rank as high as bigger picture issues like health and money.
Of those surveyed, 55.6 per cent said they were very concerned about the development of pipelines in the province and another 32.3 per cent said they were somewhat concerned. Only 10.2 per cent said they weren't concerned about more pipelines.
Oil spills and damage to the environment top the list of specific concerns respondents expressed.
In a separate online poll on a related topic also conducted last month by Strategic Communications and released this week, a majority of British Columbians said they were against the proposed Northern Gateway pipeline. Only 19.9 per cent of survey respondents said they either somewhat or strongly supported the pipeline, which would connect Alberta's oil sands with Kitimat. The poll found 55.3 of provincial residents were either somewhat or completely opposed to the plan.
However the survey did suggest that if B.C. were to get a larger share of the economic benefit of the pipeline - something the provincial government is pushing for in a list of five requirements released over the summer - the number of people who support the project could increase. Nearly one third of respondents (29.7 per cent) said they would be either much more or somewhat more likely to support Northern Gateway if B.C. got a bigger cut of the revenue.
Overall the Liberals plan is relatively popular, with 45.2 per cent of respondents saying they strongly or somewhat support the five requirements, which include a positive recommendation from the National Energy Board, guarantees of world class pipeline and marine safety, involvement of First Nations and more economic benefits for B.C. Only 27.4 per cent of people said they opposed the government's handling of the file.
The pipeline is currently being studied by the Joint Review Panel. Hearings on financial aspects of the pipeline are taking place this month in Edmonton. The scene shifts to Prince George next month when pipeline safety will be on the agenda.
Both of the surveys were conducted on behalf of the Living Oceans Society, an environmental group.
The telephone survey was conducted between Aug. 1-21 and is considered accurate within 3.5 per cent, 19 times out of 20. The online survey was done between Aug. 8-10 and has a slightly better margin of error of 3.1 per cent, 19 times out of 20.