Poll Shows Support for Northwest Coal Exports (Vancouver Sun)
Vancouverites not so opposed to coal exports, industry poll shows
Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson is adamantly opposed to expanding coal exports from Port Metro Vancouver, but many Vancouverites disagree with him, according to one market-research poll.
In a Mustel Group survey of Vancouver residents, 92 per cent of respondents agreed the port is important to British Columbia’s economy and showed a high level of support for expanding exports from it, including of coal — although to varying degrees.
Expansion of grain exports saw the most support at 88 per cent. Increasing container and forest-products shipments were next at 85 per cent support and natural gas at 62 per cent.
And expanding coal shipments saw the support of 53 per cent of respondents, though not strongly so. On the opposite side, 35 per cent said they were opposed and 12 per cent of the 500 respondents had no opinion.
“B.C. has a well-earned reputation for arguing across the divide (of issues),” said Greg D’Avignon, CEO of the Business Council of B.C. And much of the public debate is taken up by the absolute ends of the argument, he said.
D’Avignon, who forwarded the results to The Sun, said the data on commodity exports shows there is more of a middle ground among Vancouverites on the hot-button topic of coal.
He wouldn’t reveal who commissioned the poll, just that it is a council member and a company involved in the export of natural resources. Port Metro Vancouver, Westshore Terminals — the port’s biggest coal handler — and Teck Resources are all Business Council members.
Although none of the port’s existing coal terminals are in Vancouver, (they are in North Vancouver and Tsawwassen, with a significant expansion planned for Surrey’s Fraser Docks) Robertson has sought to ban any expansion to the city.
There has also been vocal opposition to the Surrey proposal by groups such as Voters Taking Action on Climate Change.
Coal is the port’s biggest commodity export, with terminals shipping a record 38.2 million tonnes in 2013. About 26 million tonnes of that was steelmaking metallurgical coal, with the remainder thermal coal, which is burned to produce electricity.
However, the Mustel poll also shows Vancouverites almost evenly divided on whether it is appropriate for the city to intervene in port plans for expanding coal exports.
Mustel Group principal Evi Mustel said the client was looking for information on building support for coal exports.
Polling can be a good tool for sparking public discussion on issues, depending on how questions are framed, said Matt Horne, B.C. associate regional director for the Pembina Institute, an environmental think-tank.
On the Mustel poll, Horne — who was provided the poll questions by The Sun — said they were unbiased. But they also didn’t get at how much respondents know about port operations, or the arguments of expansion opponents through additional questions.
“It’s helpful to know what level of knowledge is informing the answers you get,” Horne said.
The Mustel Group interviewed 500 Vancouver residents age 18 and over for the Internet survey, with the sample weighted to reflect Statistics Canada data on the city’s demographics. The results carry a margin of error of plus or minus 4.5 per cent at a 95-per-cent confidence level.
See article here.