Overwhelming Majority of Albertans Support a Pause on New Oilsands Approvals

May 8, 2007

Seventy-one per cent of Albertans believe that the Government of Alberta should suspend new oilsands approvals until infrastructure and environmental management issues have been addressed in areas affected by oilsands development. This is the striking conclusion of a new opinion poll commissioned by the Pembina Institute.

"There is very solid support for a pause in new oilsands approvals," notes Simon Dyer, a Senior Policy Analyst with the Pembina Institute. "It's clear that Albertans are feeling the consequences of rushed and unplanned development, and want Premier Stelmach to step up and start planning for the long term."

In a recent public poll commissioned by the Pembina Institute, Albertans were asked about their perceptions of oilsands development, and their expectations for how the Government of Alberta should be managing the resource. The poll was conducted by Probe Research, a professional polling firm based in Winnipeg, Manitoba. The findings are based on a province-wide phone survey of 500 Albertans conducted between April 3 and 16, 2007, with a margin of error of 4.4 per cent, 19 times out of 20.

Other key findings from the poll:

  • 74 per cent of Albertans believe that the government should manage the rate of oilsands development to meet the best long-term interests of Albertans, compared to only 20 per cent who believe that market forces should decide the rate of oilsands development in Alberta.
  • 90 per cent of Albertans agree that the Government of Alberta should only sell oilsands leases at a rate that is in the best long-term interests of Albertans.
  • While only 5 per cent of Albertans believe oilsands development is occurring too slowly, ten times that believe that it is occurring too fast.
  • 83 per cent of Albertans would like to see more government resources earmarked for addressing environmental protection in the oilsands.
  • 70 per cent of Albertans support absolute reductions in greenhouse gas emissions from the oilsands, compared to 20 per cent who support intensity-based targets.

"Albertans' expect their government to do its job and ensure responsible development in the oilsands. This is in stark contrast to Premier Stelmach's philosophy of taking the government's hands off the wheel and letting market forces do all the driving," says Dyer.

The Pembina Institute recently produced Blueprint for Responsible Oilsands Development, which calls for a pause in new oilsands approvals and lease sales while current and approved projects continue to be built. The document outlines a plan for responsible oilsands development that the Government of Alberta should put in place before lifting the moratorium.

"Oilsands development has gotten away from Albertans," said Chris Severson-Baker, Director of Energy Watch at the Pembina Institute. "A pause now means we'll be able to tell our grandchildren that we took the time to get it right rather than risking their future by proceeding without a plan."

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These poll results are Part 1 of a two-part survey commissioned by the Pembina Institute to gauge Albertans' perceptions of oilsands development. The results of Part 2, which focuses on Albertans' perspectives on royalties and economic issues associated with oilsands development, will be released on May 14, 2007.

For more information, contact:

Simon Dyer
Senior Policy Analyst
The Pembina Institute
Phone: 403-721-3937
Cell: 403-322-3937

Chris Severson-Baker
Director, Energy Watch Program
The Pembina Institute
Phone: 403-269-3344 Ext. 101
Cell: 403-899-7423

A backgrounder describing the survey questions and findings in detail is available here.

A copy of the Pembina Institute's Blueprint for Responsible Oilsands Development may be downloaded, free of charge, from www.pembina.org/pubs.

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