Canadians overwhelmingly support a west-east oil pipeline

With the prospects of the Northern Gateway Pipeline and the Keystone XL Pipeline still in neutral, and a looming provincial budget crisis in Alberta, discussion has turned to a the potential for an west-east pipeline that would ship oil from Western Canada to refineries in Quebec and New Brunswick with the final product being consumed in Canada and exported to foreign markets.

Earlier this month, Ottawa signaled its approval as did Alberta’s Premier Alison Redford and NB Premier David Alward.

The cross-national pipeline would address many of the concerns opponents of the Northern Gateway and Keystone XL pipelines had with those proposals including:

  1. The crude oil from the Alberta oil sands would be refined here in Canada (nationalist argument) and,
  2. The crude oil would not be shipped from tankers off the coast of British Columbia (environmental and NIMBY arguments).

While the national pipeline proposal doesn’t deal with environmental concerns over expansion of the development in the oil sands, it does have significantly more support than either of the two other projects had nationally.

Last month, Abacus Data asked Canadians their opinion about the proposal to build a east to west oil pipeline (methodology below).

We found that a large majority of Canadians either strongly (34%) or somewhat (35%) support the proposed east-west pipeline.  Only 20% were either strongly or somewhat opposed.  Another 13% were unsure of what they thought.


There was majority support for the project in every region of the country.  Support was highest in Alberta (81%) and lowest in Quebec (58%).

Conservative party voters in the 2011 election were most supportive (87% support) while NDP supporters (with a large chuck of their support in Quebec) were more likely to be opposed (31% opposed).

East-West Pipeline vs. Northern Gateway and Keystone XL

Comparing these results to earlier research we conducted on Northern Gateway and Keystone XL, we find that the east-west pipeline is significantly more popular than the other two high profile pipeline projects.

Among those who have an opinion about the pipelines, 78% support the East-West Pipeline proposal by TransCanada.  Compare that to the bare majority of Canadians (53%) who said they supported the Keystone XL pipeline in a November 2012 surveyor the split decision when it comes to Northern Gateway in our August 2012 survey.

Unlike the other two projects which have significant national support and opposition, there seems to be a consensus at the moment that an east-west oil pipeline is a good idea.  This might explain why Tom Mulcair and Stephen Harper seem to agree on something related to energy policy in Canada.

The east-west pipeline is different as a political issue than either Northern Gateway or Keystone XL because it deals with the two concerns identified above and there is no regional opposition to the project as in the case of Northern Gateway in Alberta.

The east-west or west-east oil pipeline is a national project that most Canadians can get behind.



The survey was conducted online with 1,832 respondents in English and French using an internet survey programmed and collected by Abacus Data. A random sample of panelists was invited to participate in the survey from a panel of over 150,000 Canadians.  The survey was completed from February 5 to 6, 2013.

Since the online survey was not a random, probability based sample, a margin of error could not be calculated.   The Marketing Research and Intelligence Association prohibits statements about margins of sampling error or population estimates with regard to most online panels.

The margin of error for a probability-based random sample of 1,832 respondents using a probability sample is +/- 2.3%, 19 times out of 20.

The data was weighted according to census data to ensure that the sample matched Ontario’s population according to age, gender, education level, and region.

These questions were posed as part of the Abacus Data monthly Omnibus survey.