Ottawa should prioritize spending on green energy over oil and gas: poll

·2-min read

More than half of Canadians want Ottawa to prioritize investments in renewable energy sources like wind, solar and hydrogen over support for the country's oil and gas industry, according to a new poll on energy and the economy.

The Angus Reid Institute predicts climate change and the future of Canada's energy industry will be top issues when voters return to the polls to elect a new federal government. Expectations for a snap election are rising, with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and rival party leaders embarking cross-country tours to make public appearances.

Angus Reid said on Tuesday that the preference is "clearly" towards focusing more on renewables versus oil and gas. In a poll of nearly 5,000 Canadians conducted between June 2 and June 7, 54 per cent said that should be the government's priority. 

That figure jumped to 57 per cent in British Columbia, and 67 per cent in Quebec, while remaining a majority in Ontario at 53 per cent. In Alberta, home to Canada's oil and gas industry, 33 per cent favour government investment in renewable energy sources.

The Trudeau Liberals have promised a green recovery from the economic slump caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. The latest federal budget laid out $17.6 billion in new green spending, and included plans for Ottawa's first green bond to fund infrastructure, clean tech and conservation projects. The budget funds will build upon the $15-billion climate plan aimed at slashing emissions, announced last December.

While Ottawa has upped its support for the emerging clean energy technologies, conventional oil and gas production remains the country's third-largest sector, behind real estate and manufacturing. The industry has complained that it's been largely ignored by the government's COVID-19 economic recovery plan, which it says lacks specific measures to help hard-hit oil and gas firms.

Angus Reid says its poll reflects the need for fossil fuel usage to bridge the transition to more renewable energy sources. One-in-three respondents (34 per cent) say Ottawa should invest equally in both. That figure climbed to 46 per cent in Alberta, ranking ahead of investment that would solely support the exploration and production of oil, coal, and natural gas (21 per cent).

Among the renewable energy sources, solar and wind received the highest levels of support among those polled, at 84 per cent and 77 per cent, respectively. Nuclear was supported by 51 per cent of respondents, followed by oil and gas (28 per cent), hydraulic fracturing for oil and gas (28 per cent), and coal mining (19 per cent).

Jeff Lagerquist is a senior reporter at Yahoo Finance Canada. Follow him on Twitter @jefflagerquist.

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