Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks with reporters as he makes his way to caucus in West block, Wednesday February 26, 2020 in Ottawa. A new poll suggests Canadians weren’t happy with Justin Trudeau’s handling of the natural-gas pipeline dispute in British Columbia that led to nationwide rail and road blockades mounted in solidarity with Indigenous leaders who oppose the project.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks with reporters as he makes his way to caucus in West block, Wednesday February 26, 2020 in Ottawa. A new poll suggests Canadians weren’t happy with Justin Trudeau’s handling of the natural-gas pipeline dispute in British Columbia that led to nationwide rail and road blockades mounted in solidarity with Indigenous leaders who oppose the project.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

Majority of Canadians unhappy with Trudeau’s handling of blockade crisis: poll

Leger executive vice-president says this represents a major shift in public support for Indigenous rights

A new poll suggests Canadians weren’t happy with Justin Trudeau’s handling of the natural-gas pipeline dispute in British Columbia that led to nationwide rail and road blockades mounted in solidarity with Indigenous leaders who oppose the project.

According to the Leger Marketing survey, 61 per cent of respondents said they were dissatisfied with the way the prime minister has handled the blockade file.

The numbers also suggest most Canadians blame the federal government for the crisis that erupted after Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs were arrested in B.C. while trying to block the Coastal GasLink pipeline project in early February — even though the project was approved by the province.

A majority of respondents — 57 per cent — said they believe Indigenous land claims are valid and there was overwhelming support for the federal government to actively resolve them and to consult with Indigenous groups on development projects.

Leger executive vice-president Christian Bourque says this represents a major shift in public support for Indigenous rights issues compared to previous decades.

But when it comes to whether Indigenous Peoples should have a veto on major developments on their lands, the Leger survey suggests opinion is more divided, with 42 per cent of respondents saying Yes while 41 per cent said No.

“I think Canadians have moved forward in aiming for reconciliation, but probably not to the degree that Indigenous leaders would like,” Bourque said.

“When (respondents) say they’re dissatisfied with the prime minister’s handling of the whole rail blockade issue, some of them would want to actually move faster and get the blockade out of the way quicker, but a lot of it is basically people saying, ‘Wait a minute here, maybe we did something wrong leading into this.’”

Regional results suggest respondents from oil-and gas-producing provinces like Alberta and Saskatchewan registered higher levels of dissatisfaction, while those on the East Coast, Ontario and Quebec were more measured in their response, Bourque noted.

When asked whether the Coastal GasLink pipeline should be stopped permanently or paused temporarily to negotiate further with Indigenous leaders, respondents appeared divided, with a tie of 37 per cent favouring each option.

However, taking Prairie provinces out of the mix suggests a majority of Canadians elsewhere would support a more measured, negotiated approach, Bourque said.

The numbers also suggest those who identified as Conservative voters were less favourable toward Indigenous land claims, he said, noting that the majority of Conservative supporters are in the oil and gas producing provinces.

“That sort of creates a spiral around this issue,” Bourque said.

“It has a potential to be divisive: on the one hand, if you’re the Liberal government, if you don’t go far enough in terms of aiming towards reconciliation, then you might alienate Green party supporters, NDP supporters out there and potentially some Bloc supporters as well. But if you go too heavy-handed into this to try and appease Conservative supporters, then you’re losing your left-of-centre support that you desperately need.”

It may not be all bad news for Trudeau’s minority government, however.

The Liberal party’s overall polling numbers have remained relatively stable, in the mid-30-per-cent range since the October federal election, dropping just two percentage points to 32 per cent since the last Leger survey was conducted in early February.

Bourque said he believes this means even though the public may be unhappy with how Trudeau has handled the B.C. pipeline and blockade issue, overall the issue is only cementing the partisan lines that already exist.

“Responses to the other questions are telling us (the Liberals) adopted the best strategy, which was to take (their) time and try to aim for a peaceful resolution and a getting back to the negotiating table,” Bourque said.

“But it also looks, from a partisan and political perspective, it’s becoming tougher and tougher for the Liberal party in Western Canada.”

The online survey of 1,540 Canadians was conducted Feb. 28 to March 2 for The Canadian Press and cannot be assigned a margin of error because Internet-based polls are not random samples.

Teresa Wright, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Coastal GasLinkIndigenousPipelinerailway

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Dr. Bernhardt’s freshly planted strawberries. (Mary Lowther photo)
Mary Lowther column: Hoping for a bumper crop of strawberries

Because our new plot gets a lot of sun, maybe strawberries won’t become consumed by wood bugs

Sarah Simpson
Sarah Simpson Column: Newton’s first law of motion

I could have sworn I told them to help each other get unbuckled and to come inside.

Commercial property owners in Duncan will have an opportunity to beef up their security in 2021 with matching grants from the municipality. (File photo)
City of Duncan to help commercial properties increase security

Municipality to set up matching grant opportunities

John and Jeri Wyatt hope the upcoming North Cowichan public hearing will move things along toward exclusion of the Chemainus River Campground from the Agricultural Land Reserve. (Photo by Don Bodger)
Input sought on Chemainus campground ALR exclusion at public hearing

Matter back on the agenda after a late reprieve in 2019 for Chemainus River Campground owners

Paper Excellence took over Catalyst Paper operations in B.C. in 2018. (Paper Excellence photo)
Rainbow trouts thrashing with life as they’re about to be transferred to the largest lake of their lives, even though it’s pretty small. These rainbows have a blue tinge because they matched the blue of their hatchery pen, but soon they’ll take on the green-browns of their new home at Lookout Lake. (Zoe Ducklow/News Staff)
VIDEO: B.C. lake stocked with hatchery trout to delight of a seniors fishing club

The Cherish Trout Scouts made plans to come back fishing soon

Pall Bearers carrying the coffin of the Duke of Edinburgh, followed by the Prince of Wales, left and Princess Anne, right, into St George’s Chapel for his funeral, at Windsor Castle, in Windsor, England, Saturday April 17, 2021. (Danny Lawson/Pool via AP)
Trudeau announces $200K donation to Duke of Edinburgh award as Prince Philip laid to rest

A tribute to the late prince’s ‘remarkable life and his selfless service,’ the Prime Minister said Saturday

B.C. homeowners are being urged to take steps to prepare for the possibility of a flood by moving equipment and other assets to higher ground. (J.R. Rardon)
‘Entire province faces risk’: B.C. citizens urged to prepare for above-average spring flooding

Larger-than-normal melting snowpack poses a threat to the province as warmer weather touches down

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Vancouver-based Doubleview Gold Corp. is developing claims in an area north of Telegraph Creek that occupies an important place in Tahltan oral histories, said Chad Norman Day, president of the Tahltan Central Government. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO)
B.C. Indigenous nation opposes mineral exploration in culturally sensitive area

There’s “no way” the Tahltan would ever support a mine there, says Chad Norman Day, president of its central government

Stz’uminus Elder George Harris, Ladysmith Mayor Aaron Stone, and Stz’uminus Chief Roxanne Harris opened the ceremony. (Cole Schisler photo)
Symbolic red dresses rehung along B.C. highway after vandals tore them down

Leaders from Stz’uminus First Nation and the Town of Ladysmith hung new dresses on Sat. April 17

A Western toadlet crosses the centre line of Elk View Road in Chilliwack on Aug. 26, 2010. A tunnel underneath the road has since been installed to help them migrate cross the road. Saturday, April 24 is Save the Frogs Day. (Jenna Hauck/ Progress File)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of April 18 to 24

Save the Frogs Day, Love Your Thighs Day and Scream Day are all coming up this week

Local carpenter Tyler Bohn embarked on a quest to create the East Sooke Treehouse, after seeing people build similar structures on a Discovery Channel show. (East Sooke Treehouse Facebook photo)
PHOTOS: B.C. carpenter builds fort inspired by TV’s ‘Treehouse Masters’

The whimsical structure features a wooden walking path, a loft, kitchen – and is now listed on Airbnb

The Attorney General’s Ministry says certain disputes may now be resolved through either a tribunal or the court system, pending its appeal of a B.C. Supreme Court decision that reduced the tribunal’s jurisdiction. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)
Court of Appeal grants partial stay in ruling on B.C. auto injuries

B.C. trial lawyers challenged legislation brought in to cap minor injury awards and move smaller court disputes to the Civil Resolution Tribunal

Most Read