Brad Wall

Saskatchewan People Were Polled On Carbon Pricing & the Results Aren’t What You Think

I’ve always wanted to headline a post with clickbait. Preferably one that doesn’t include swear words (many, many of you, especially my male readers and my mom, get quite disgusted when I do that). Will it work? Let’s watch.

It’s true though. In a recent poll commissioned by Canada’s Ecofiscal Commission and conducted by Abacus Data, people across Canada were questioned extensively on their views on not only carbon pricing (or carbon “tax”, depending on what side of this debate you lie), but on the state of our environment – why things are they way they are – and the strength of our commitment to protecting it.

I assumed that, especially given the fierce anti-carbon pricing messaging over the last few years from former Premier Brad Wall and the current Saskatchewan Party government, the results from Saskatchewan residents would be something along the lines of climate change isn’t real and any action to mitigate it, never mind a carbon tax, equals pure, unadulterated evil.

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Make no mistake, there are plenty of people around here who think exactly that, and they are certainly entitled to their opinion (just ask them).

I’m not sure how many of them understand (and this theory is supported by the poll results, not just my own arrogance) that the federal pricing legislation, released in January and formerly tabled last week, specifically excludes farmers in all ways shapes and forms.

Screen Shot 2018-04-04 at 11.18.01 AM.png

One example from federal government’s Greenhouse Gas Pollution Pricing Act. There are more, feel free to search the rest yourself (linked above).

But I digress.

Those results are also likely valid, but don’t negate these, as this was a fairly exhaustive survey*. Now, as per usual, Saskatchewan’s results were combined with Manitoba’s (its a population thang), but in my experience nerding out on studying poll data over the last decade (or more, who am I kidding), that doesn’t make them any less relative to Saskatchewan alone. Like it or not, we generally think like our neighbour to the east.

So without further ado here’s what this poll, entitled Perceptions of Carbon Pricing in Canada, revealed about Saskatchewan’s thoughts on climate change and carbon pricing.

Q: In your view, is there conclusive evidence, solid evidence, some but not conclusive evidence, little evidence, or no evidence that the average temperature on earth has been getting warmer over the past few decades, or not?

53% of Saskatchewan residents believe that there is conclusive or solid evidence that the earth has been warming over the past few decades. That surprised me, but that surprise was offset by the fact that 35% – the highest in Canada – of us believe there is only some, but not conclusive evidence.

Q: If the earth is warming, do you believe that cause is mostly…?

In Saskatchewan, a full 64% selected …”because of human and industrial activity such as burning fossil fuels.”

That’s a lot of faith in witchcraft reasoning.

But 36% were not buying that and selected “…because of natural patterns in the earth’s environment.” This was the second highest percentage in Canada, falling behind Alberta, where 46% of residents believe that the earth is warming all by itself.

Below is a list of possible public policy priorities. How much of a priority do you feel each one should be?

I don’t love this section, because I think it’s flawed without listing other policy considerations (ie. health or crime and safety). They did do that on a national basis, however, which I’ll provide below as well.

For now I’ll list each environmental policy and how Saskatchewan ranked it, from a choice of

  • a top priority
  • a very high priority
  • a high priority
  • a moderate priority
  • a low priority

Improving the state of the environment.

64% in Saskatchewan rated ‘improving the state of the environment’ as anywhere from a top priority to a high priority.

But I mean seriously, who’s not going to say that. (Well, technically 6%. Tied with Alberta as the highest in Canada, that’s how many in Saskatchewan said it was a low priority.)

Taking action to solve climate change.

63% of us rated this as a top priority to a high priority.

Got to admit, higher than I would have thought.

13% rated this a low priority, just behind (surprise!) Alberta at 16%.

Shifting our economy to a clean energy economy.

I’m guessing the magic word in this one is “economy”, because 68% in Saskatchewan gauged shifting our economy over clean energy as a top priority to a high priority.

As heartening as those numbers regarding policy priority might be, at least for some, again I don’t put much stock in them, especially when compared to where the environment rates nationally (not very high) on an overall list of public policy priorities:

Screen Shot 2018-04-04 at 9.35.03 AM

10th, 12th and 14th to be exact.

Do you believe in climate change?

34% in Saskatchewan consider themselves believers, and a whopping 49%, which is on par with almost every other province in Canada, consider themselves as leaning towards believing in climate change.

Think about that… 83% in Saskatchewan either believe, or are leaning towards believing that climate change is an actual thing.

Even if that number is out by double digits, it’s still… wow.

I guarantee that even five years ago the combined total would not have even touched the fifty percent mark.

Generally speaking, how would you like to see governments in Canada emphasize policies that reduce greenhouse gas emissions?

Now here’s one where we are actually quite far apart from Alberta – in Saskatchewan, 56% of respondents would like to see more emphasis on policies that reduce greenhouse gas emissions, while only 46% our next door neighbours to the west would like to see the same.

Put another way, over half of Saskatchewan residents want to see more action on pollution from the Sask. Party government – a hint, perhaps, that Prairie Resilience is a little too resilient to being accepted by residents as a satisfactory plan for our province.

Rank the following choices for how you would prefer governments use policy to reduce emissions.

Now we’re ranking each emissions policy as our first, second, third or fourth choice to reduce pollution in Saskatchewan. First on the list…

Rules and regulations.

I’ve heard this before, but it never ceases to amaze me.

In a supposedly free-market-driven province, where we are terrified to sneeze in the direction of an oil company lest they run screaming (never mind do something like, oh, make changes pithy royalty structure), more government rules and regulations on emitters – ie. oil producers – is our number one choice to tackle pollution. 47% of respondents picked this one.

Just ahead of us is British Columbia, where 52% chose more government interference in regulation of emitters as their top solution to pollution (unrelated: “solution to pollution” is fun to say).

I just don’t get it.

Low carbon technology solutions.

In other words, government cash incentives for companies making “green” tech.

This one got the big thumbs down from Saskatchewan, with only 31% selecting it as their first choice, tied for the lowest in Canada (again with BC). It was our highest second choice, however, at 41%.

Carbon pricing.

Let’s just say not so many of us chose carbon pricing as a first choice, which is on par with the rest of Canada.

Ultimately, every province in Canada chose more rules and regulations as their first choice in policy to control carbon emissions, with tech solutions coming in second, and carbon pricing a distant third.

The latter can be considered somewhat good, however, because carbon pricing still came in ahead of…

Do nothing.

Overwhelmingly this was all of Canada’s last choice; approximately 75% chose it last. Even in Saskatchewan (though still just second behind Alberta, where only 64% chose ‘do nothing’ as their last choice) 70% of respondents essentially do not consider zero action on reducing pollution an option.

Rank the following reasons to do more to combat climate change from most important to least important to you.

Once again we’re choosing from the following as our first, second, third or fourth choice as reason to battle climate change (or reduce emissions – pick your poison).

Moral responsibility.

Congratulations Saskatchewan, you have a conscience!

So does most of Canada, with every province (even Alberta) choosing this as their most important reason to battle climate change, at an average of approximately 38%.

Shifting to energy efficiency and clean technology.

On this one Saskatchewan came out ahead of the pack, with 28% of us choosing it as the top reason to battle climate change – the highest in Canada. 

Transition to more renewables or fall behind economically.

Now we’re moving into “meh” territory, with only 19% of Saskatchewan respondents worried that our province’s economy will suffer if we don’t get with the climate change program, and just 28% choosing it as even their second choice.

We were the second lowest in Canada on this one, just behind the Atlantic provinces. Even Alberta was ahead of us in making the connection between their economy and renewable energy.

Last, and least, we have…

Weather disasters are costly.

Okay so once again, mind is a bit blown. Saskatchewan ranked this the lowest on their list, in fact ranked it the lowest in Canada.

Um… forest fires? Flooding? Hello?

*crickets*

Okay, fair enough. We’re not connecting our broke-ass fiscal position to the gazillions of dollars the province has paid out through the Provincial Disaster Assistance Program (PDAP) and spent on forest fires, and/or we’re not connecting those two sets of circumstances to carbon pollution.

What Does It All Mean?

Even if these numbers aren’t perfect, I believe they still mean that overall Saskatchewan residents are getting antsy about establishing a way forward on mitigating our carbon emissions.

So far any talk of potential steps for Saskatchewan have been drowned out by Wall’s and now Moe’s (and still Wall’s) political posturing against the federal Liberals and the threat of (expensive) court action in the event carbon pricing is imposed upon our province.

Even if the message is getting through that carbon pricing is not the right solution for Saskatchewan (which I think obviously it has) the vast majority of Saskatchewan people believe in climate change.

Approximately two-thirds believe climate change is man-made, and well over half of us want the Sask. Party government to get moving on doing something… anything.

Are they listening?

*Methodology:

Online survey

Survey was conducted online with Canadians aged 18 and over. A random sample of panelists were invited to complete the survey from a set of partner panels based on the Lucid exchange platform.

Sample Size

2,250 Canadians

Margin of error for a comparable probability-based random sample of the same size is +/- 2.1%, 19 times out of 20.

Field dates

February 9th to 15th, 2018

Statistical Weighting

Data was weighted according to census data to ensure that the sample matched Canada’s population according to age, gender, educational attainment, and region.

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For those of you who care, I’m Tammy Robert. I’m a writer, but pay the bills consulting in political strategy, media and public relations. Feel free to email me anytime about either at tammyrobert@live.ca
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1 reply »

  1. It’s difficult to know what would be necessary to get the present provincial government to a level of understanding at which constructive and positive climate policy would be a realistic possibility. (But we have to keep trying….) Take Scott Moe’s comments to the media on March 28th when he announced his quixotic court challenge against the feds. Almost in the same sentence he talked about needing to “start talking about carbon emissions on a global basis” then advocated the building of export pipelines which would enable more global consumption of Alberta bitumen and so higher global emissions. Admittedly he just said “pipelines”, but I think we know which ones he meant given his belligerent attacks on the BC government’s proposal to actually get the science done on dilbit’s behaviour in water before allowing too much of the goo through their territory. (And apparently he thinks that building dilbit export pipelines – to send the stuff to refineries which can actually cope with it, of which there are none on the Canadian coastline, and none proposed – will somehow mean that eastern Canada doesn’t have to import oil.)

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