Canadian Manufacturing

Survey in Alberta finds half of respondents support carbon tax

Two-thirds of survey answers signaled the government's priority should be diversifying the economy rather than making business easier for oil and gas companies



EDMONTON—Half of Albertans who participated in a new survey supported a carbon tax and were willing to pay it.

The poll, released Sept. 30, found that number held even if the taxes were applied to individuals as well as companies.

“It doesn’t surprise me,” said Simon Dyer of the Pembina Institute, a clean energy think-tank that commissioned the poll from Ekos Research.

“There’s always a strong constituency around responsible development and addressing greenhouse gas pollution and it seems to be getting stronger.”

The survey found support for a carbon tax was about even throughout the province at 52 per cent in Edmonton and 56 per cent in Calgary. Support fell to 38 per cent in the rural south.

Percentages went even higher if the money collected were to go to a specific purpose. About three-quarters of respondents said they would approve a carbon tax if it were used to fund technology to help the energy sector reduce emissions. Two-thirds said the tax would be OK if the money were used for public transit and energy-efficient buildings.

About half linked their approval to lowering income taxes, as British Columbia did with its carbon tax.

The survey of 1,800 Albertans in late August and early September found 53 per cent support for tougher climate change policies, even if they increased costs for industry. About the same percentage agreed Alberta’s targets should align with those required to keep global warming under 2 C.

Two-thirds suggested the government’s priority should be on diversifying the economy, rather than making business easier for oil and gas companies.

Still, most want the oilsands to survive. Nearly three-quarters said the industry should remain at its current size or grow larger.

The survey comes as Alberta’s NDP government prepares its overall plan for climate change. An expert panel is expected to deliver recommendations in November in advance of a major international summit in Paris.

Albertans may be slightly less supportive of climate change policy than other Canadians, but the Ekos results are broadly in line with similar surveys done elsewhere, said pollster Frank Graves.

“It’s just a matter of degree. They’re not qualitatively different,” he said.

“Things like acceptance of climate change, support for carbon pricing, there’s a surprising level of receptivity in Alberta. But it is lower than in other parts of the country.”

Graves said Saskatchewan tends to show similar results to Alberta.

One response to the survey suggested Albertans don’t believe comments by Prime Minister Stephen Harper that the province’s current economic troubles are the result of its NDP government, said Graves. Two-thirds of respondents blamed those problems on a long-term failure of economic diversification, rather than on the new government’s policies.

“There are not a lot of people buying Mr. Harper’s idea.”

The survey also suggested Albertans were still giving Premier Rachel Notley and her colleagues the benefit of the doubt. Asked if the province was headed in the right direction on climate change, respondents were almost evenly split between yes, no, and don’t know.

Ekos says the survey is considered accurate to within 2.3 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

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