Quebecers have overwhelmingly lost confidence in the National Energy Board and want pipeline hearings stopped until Canada’s environmental laws have been reformed, according to new statistics from French poller, Sondage Omnibus Téléphonique (SOM).
Seventy-three per cent of respondents to the recent survey say they don't have confidence in the NEB's ability to evaluate the Energy East pipeline proposal following the “Charest Affair,” exposed by National Observer earlier this year. Nearly 90 per cent of them further believe that hearings for the major oilsands expansion proposal shouldn't continue until Canada's environmental assessment procedure has been reformed.
While the Trudeau government currently has processes underway to reform the NEB and environmental assessments, many conservation and environmental groups say the changes aren't coming fast enough. The National Energy Board has not yet commented on the polling results.
The public opinion findings come from a survey of 1,020 Quebecers conducted by SOM and commissioned by a coalition of environmental groups, including Équiterre, the Coule pas chez Nous foundation, the David Suzuki Foundation, Greenpeace Canada, Nature Québec and Regroupement vigilance hydrocarbures Québec.
Respondents were asked two questions in French. Translated into English, they read as follows:
1. "During the election campaign, Justin Trudeau committed to review environmental protection laws and to reform the environmental assessment process to ensure that decisions will be based on scientific studies and the public interest. However, it was decided that the East Energy project evaluation would continue without waiting for this to be done. Do you think the federal Liberal government should revise environmental laws and reform the environmental assessment process before continuing to evaluate the East Energy project?"
2. "Three commissioners of the National Energy Board responsible for evaluating the Energy East pipeline project recused themselves on September 9. Two of them were suspected of lacking impartiality because they met privately with former premier Jean Charest while he was acting as a consultant for TransCanada, and the president of the National Energy Board was present in the meeting. As things stand, do you have confidence in the National Energy Board to conduct an objective evaluation of the Energy East project?"
The questions were asked as part of an omnibus poll conducted by telephone from Oct. 6 to Oct. 17, targeted at a stratified and non-proportional population sample in three large regions. It was a probability sample, randomly generated from valid phone numbers within the territory of the study, according to the report, including 80 per cent landlines and 20 per cent mobile.
Data was weighted to ensure a representative sample of Quebec’s adult population and the maximum margin of error for the sample is 4.4 per cent, 19 times out of 20.