Prince George-Peace River MP Bob Zimmer believes there's enough support in his riding for new pipelines like the proposed Northern Gateway project, despite more than half of the respondents to a recent questionnaire opposing the plan.
In a recent questionnaire sent through the mail, Zimmer asked constituents their thoughts on new heavy pipelines in the province and about 52 per cent of the 627 who responded said they were against the idea and about 42 per cent were in favour with the rest undecided.
However, Zimmer said some of those opposed wrote in to explain that they were against the export of raw bitumen but would support the idea of new pipelines if the products shipped through them were refined in B.C. He said once those with a "qualified no" are factored in the split for and against becomes almost even.
"When you look at it as a 50-50 split, absolutely there is enough [support]," he said Wednesday.
Zimmer often uses questionnaires to gauge constituents issues on important topics and the response rate was similar to other questionnaires Zimmer has sent out in the past.
The opposition to new pipelines was concentrated in the southern parts of the riding, including Prince George, whereas the potential pipeline projects received more support in the Peace region where the oil and gas industry plays a more substantial role in the local economy.
If built, the Northern Gateway pipeline would cross the Prince George-Peace River riding as it aims to connect northern Alberta with Kitimat. An environmental review process is nearing completion, with a report from the National Energy Board expected by the end of the year.
Once that report is complete, the federal cabinet will make a decision on whether to issue Northern Gateway with a certificate to proceed. Zimmer plans to share the views of his constituents with Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver in advance of that decision.
"The minister wants to know what we're thinking about out here in B.C., he's made that very clear to me," Zimmer said.
Once the review process is complete, Zimmer may once again solicit the views of people in his riding. Next time, he plans to ask more specific and refined questions to get a better understanding of how people feel about the industry.
"I want to watch the review process take its course, I think they're doing a thorough job," he said. "I haven't injected myself in the process yet, other than this survey."