Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Pembina Institute Releases the Candidate Survey Findings.

The Pembina Institute has been busy focused on oil sands development issues. They released the results of the candidate survey they did on some development issues on the oilsands. They got great participation – 192 individual responses that covered the gamut of political parties too…not shabby at all.

They surveyed issues on pace of development, GHG management, reclamation and the role of government. The interesting thing is to compare the candidate responses and see how much they align with the earlier poll results of Albertans done in 2007. Then 74% agreed the government should manage the rate of growth to better serve the long term needs of Albertans. Then 71% supported suspending oil sands approvals until infrastructure and environmental management issues could be addressed in the Wood Buffalo region.

This is what the Mayor and Council of the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo has been saying. They have even intervened in EUB hearing to make that point. The EUB deferred to the government on those points in recent approval decisions even though they had jurisdiction to dictate some appropriate conditions.

The issue of developing the oil sands as fast as possible, the Greens are way out in front on the issues and the Wildrose Alliance are way behind on the issues. That should not be a surprise. However the big three parties are all very close to each other, all disagreeing in the 75-85% range. There should be little difficulty getting a consensus in the next sitting of the Legislature provided the government poses the questions appropriately.

The question needs to be posed as a policy initiative too because in 2007 67% of Albertans disagreed with developing the oil sands as fast as possible. Maybe the politicians are up to speed on the public sentiment on the pace of development issue. Now does the leadership have the courage to get in front of that parade?

On the idea of government suspending new project approvals until infrastructure and environmental management issues are addressed there is a significant difference between the parties. In 2007 71% of Albertans agreed with a suspension of project approvals to let us catch our breath and catch up to the demands we are already facing. The Libs, Greens and NDP candidates were all stronger in agreeing with this approach than the public. About half of the PC and Alliance candidates were aligned with the public’s agreement and 30- 40% were totally off side with public sentiment on this issue.

Reclamation is a big issue for the energy companies and one they ignore at their peril. The issue is should project approvals only be granted IF companies can demonstrate now that they can restore mined areas back to the way they were. In 2007 88% of Albertans agreed with this condition of project approval. The Libs, Greens and Dipper candidates wee bunched together at about 80% agreeing. Ironically the Lib and Dippers were slightly strong on this than the Green candidates. There were about 70% of the PCs and Wild-Alliance candidates agreeing. Ironically again the Wild-Alliance candidates were slightly ahead of the PCs on this issue and in both instances off side with the party platform and the positions of their leaders.

As to what should drive the pace of oil sands development about 60% of the Wild-Alliance and 15% of the PCs said the marketplace should be the control factor. Government management was preferred by 75% of PC candidates and virtually 100% of the Greens, Dippers and Libs. The public position was 74% wanting government management. PCs are aligned, the Wild Alliance is behind the issue and the other parties are ahead of public sentiment.

On the hard cap versus intensity standards of GHG emissions, 70% of Albertans wanted hard caps. Libs and Dippers are 99% to 95% in favour and the Greens are about 90% in favour. There are only 25% of PCs who what hard caps and that is even less than the Wild-Alliance candidates. Again the right is off side with public sentiment.

As a PC member I can say our policy position has to change for political reasons and if we are to exercise the proper roles and responsibilities needed to better serve the public interest. I see evidence of that change coming about in the recent changes from Ed Stelmach…see my earlier posting on the Premier’s evolution on a partial moratorium request to government from CEMA. I hope the Premier’s office reads these results and the Cambridge Strategies oil sands survey results too – and takes them to heart.