Environmental groups re-issue poll, showing BC worried about US, Chinese control of natural resources

A coalition of BC  environmental groups have re-released a poll from last spring showing that almost 75 per cent of British Columbians are worried about foreign investment in Canadian natural resources. The poll also shows that only a small minority of British Columbians (15%) are concerned about charitable funding provided by US philanthropic foundations to Canadian environmental groups.

The poll was conducted by Strategic Communications in April 2011 and commissioned by the following groups: BC Sustainable Energy Association; Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society – BC Chapter; Conservation Northwest; Dogwood Initiative; Ecojustice; ForestEthics; Georgia Strait Alliance; Greenpeace; Pembina Institute; Sierra Club BC; West Coast Environmental Law; Wildsight.

The re-release of this poll is aimed at countering a poll last week, commissioned by Enbridge showing wide spread support in BC for the pipeline and an attack ad campaign by the pro-bitumen sands group Ethical Oil, which has been saying that there is too much foreign interference in the Canadian energy regulatory process.

Based on a random online sample of 830 adult British Columbians, the results are considered accurate to within plus or minus 3.4 percent 19 times out of 20.

This poll shows that 47.1% of respondents were very worried and 32.1% somewhat worried about “Americans controlling our natural resources.” Asking if people were worried about China, 39.0 % were very worried and 33.8% were somewhat worried about “China investing in our natural resources.” It shows that 38.3% were “very worried” and 34.2% “somewhat worried” about “China taking or controlling our natural resources.”

The news release from the groups says

“These poll results suggest that the oil lobby’s attacks against environmental groups are out of touch with the true values of British Columbians. The real issue is the unacceptable risk of a foreign-funded pipeline-oil tanker project that would ram pipe through unceded First Nations lands to ship some of the world’s dirtiest oil across thousands of fragile salmon-bearing rivers and streams,” said Will Horter, Executive Director of the Dogwood Initiative. “225 Supertankers a year, many larger than the Exxon Valdez, would need to transit the treacherous fjords of the Great Bear Rainforest, on route to China. This pipeline is all risk and no reward for British Columbians.”

According to the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP), over the three-year period from 2007-2010 alone, foreign companies poured nearly $20 billion dollars into the tar sands. In contrast, according to blogger Vivian Krause, US charitable foundations have given Canadian environmental groups less than 1.5% of that amount over a ten year period, accounting for all charitable funding on Canadian environmental issues ranging from forest protection to fisheries conservation.

“Funding for environmental charities helps to right the imbalance between ordinary citizens and the financial and political influence of multinational companies in Canada,” said Jessica Clogg of West Coast Environmental Law. “Since 1974, our environmental legal aid services have enabled citizens and community groups throughout BC to participate in resource decisions – like the proposed Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline – that would profoundly affect their lives.”

“Canadians value the importance of environmental advocates speaking up for economic development that sustains our communities without destroying the ecology that supports us,” said Sierra Club BC Executive Director George Heyman. “We represent a legitimate Canadian viewpoint that is critical to sound policy-making, particularly when facing the influential, China-backed Enbridge pipeline lobby.”

As with many polls in a polarized situation, there are problems.  As Northwest Coast Energy News showed last week, the numbers in the Enbridge-sponsored poll are unreliable for northern British Columbia.  The environmental groups’ poll could also be considered suspect by the way the questions were phrased and the order in which they were asked.

Foreign Funding Poll Backgrounder  (Data figures from the groups who commissioned the poll)