Three-Quarters (75%) of Canadians Believe Oil Refineries Should Prioritize Local Oil Before Importing From Other Countries

Seven in Ten (70%) Think It’s Important to Access New Export Markets to Reduce Reliance on Exporting to the U.S.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Toronto, ON – A new survey conducted by Ipsos Reid on behalf of the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP) reveals that most Canadians believe the country’s oil refineries should emphasize using local product before using imported oil from foreign sources.

Three-quarters (75%) ‘agree’ (40% strongly/34% somewhat) that ‘Canadian oil refineries should make it a priority to use Canadian oil before using oil imported from other countries, even if it means transporting oil from Western Canada across the country to the refineries’, while just over one in ten (14%) ‘disagree’ (4% strongly/11% somewhat) and 11% have no opinion.

Seven in ten (70%) ‘agree’ (29% strongly/41% somewhat) that ‘it is important that Canada accesses new markets for oil exports in order to reduce the reliance on exports to the United States, with fewer than one in five (18%) ‘disagreeing’ (5% strongly/13% somewhat) and 13% having no opinion.

Majority Support Pipelines in All Directions...

With crude oil in high demand in all regions, most Canadians appear to be supportive of the use of these pipelines to bring oil across the country, and to export it.

Eight in ten (80%) ‘support’ (41% strongly/39% somewhat) the use of pipelines to transport oil sands crude oil from Alberta to refineries in Ontario, Quebec, and Atlantic Canada, with just two in ten (20%) ‘opposing’ (8% strongly/12% somewhat) such a pipeline.

Two in three (66%) ‘support’ (25% strongly/41% somewhat) transporting oil sands crude oil from Alberta to shipping ports on British Columbia’s coast and on to international markets such as Asia, while only one in three (34%) ‘oppose’ (14% strongly/20% somewhat) the use of pipelines for this purpose.

Six in ten (57%) even ‘support’ (20% strongly/37% somewhat) the use of pipelines in transporting crude oil from Alberta to refineries in Texas, although four in ten (43%) ‘oppose’ (18% strongly/25% somewhat) it.

Perceptions of Pipeline Transportation...

Much discussion from increased transportation of natural gas and oil resources revolves around whether this resource has been transported safely.

A strong majority of Canadians think measures currently in place are performing well. Nearly three-quarters (72%) are closer to the opinion that crude oil has been transported safely across Canada for decades, while fewer than three in ten (28%) believe crude oil transportation has proven to be unsafe and should be stopped.

Canadians were provided some statements reflecting the current state of transporting crude oil by pipeline and were asked to gauge whether they made them more or less favourable or had no impact on how they saw the use of pipelines for this transportation. The data reveal that more than six in ten Canadians are more favourable about pipeline transportation of crude oil after hearing them. These include:

(Click to enlarge image)

Oil Sands and the Environment

With much of the debate around the Alberta oil sands focusing on potential environmental effects, most Canadians do think it’s possible to develop the oil sands and protect the environment. Two-thirds (65%) ‘agree’ (20% strongly/44% somewhat) that ‘it is possible to produce oil sands while at the same time managing the environmental impacts’, while just one in four (25%) ‘disagree’ (9% strongly/16% somewhat) and one in ten (11%) have no opinion.

A similar proportion (62%) believe that oil sands greenhouse gas emissions represent only a fraction of Canadian greenhouse gas emissions, compared to fewer than four in ten (38%) who believe that greenhouse gas emissions from the oil sands represent a large contributor to all Canadian greenhouse gas emissions.

Most (74%), however, ‘agree’ (31% strongly/42% somewhat) that ‘the oil sands could be doing more to protect the environment’, while 13% ‘disagree’ (2% strongly/10% somewhat) or have no opinion.

Looking at situations ‘when the oil sands sector explains how it is helping the environment, they trust they’re doing what they say they’re doing’ a similar proportion of Canadians ‘agree’ (44%, 9% strongly/35% somewhat) and ‘disagree’ (42%, 16% strongly/25% somewhat), while 14% have no opinion.

Canadians are also of evenly differing opinions on their agreement on their assessment of the industry’s contributions to investing in sustainability. Two in five (41%) ‘agree’ (7% strongly/34% somewhat) that ‘the oil sands sector is doing a good job investing in environmental sustainability, with a similar two in five (42%) ‘disagreeing’ (15% strongly/27% somewhat) and one in five (17%) having no opinion.

This difference is mirrored when Canadians think about the sector’s commitment to both environmental and economic concerns. Two in five (41%) ‘agree’ (7% strongly/34% somewhat) that ‘the oil sands sector is doing a good job balancing environmental and economic concerns’, with a similar proportion (43%) ‘disagreeing’ (17% strongly/26% somewhat) and one in five (16%) having no opinion.

More than two in five (43%) ‘disagree’ (15% strongly/28% somewhat) that ‘the oil sands sector does more than most other industries when it comes to protecting the environment, which is more than the proportion who ‘agree’ (37%, 8% strongly/29% somewhat) with this sentiment, while two in ten (20%) have no opinion.

Half (46%) ‘disagree’ (15% strongly/31% somewhat) with the notion that ‘no matter what the oil sands say, they will never believe them and what they say about the environment’, outpointing those who ‘agree’ (38%, 12% strongly/26% somewhat) or have no opinion (16%) on this statement.

When presented with some key statements about the oil sands industry and its impact on Canada’s environment, for the most part, a majority indicate they’re more favourable to the industry once being presented the information. The table below shows how public opinion breaks down when being shown this information:

(Click to enlarge image)

Importance of the Oil Sands to the Canadian Economy

Seven in ten (70%) ‘agree’ (34% strongly/36% somewhat) that ‘the oil sands industry is important to Canada’s economy’, with just one in ten (14%) ‘disagreeing’ (5% strongly/9% somewhat) and one in five (16%) having no opinion on the topic.

Half (51%) of Canadians ‘agree’ (21% strongly/30% somewhat) that they ‘are proud of Canada’s oil sands sector and their success’, twice that of those who ‘disagree’ (25%, 10% strongly/15% somewhat) with this sentiment or have no opinion (24%).

A majority of Canadians are in agreement with several positive messages about the often-dubbed ‘controversial’ oil sands including:

  • ‘Canada’s energy sector must be nurtured and developed to stay competitive with other countries’ – 71% agree vs. 13% disagree
  • ‘Canada’s oil sands industry is a great source of high-quality jobs for Canadians’ – 67% agree vs. 15% disagree
  • ‘Canadians would like to learn more about Canada’s oil sands, how they are developed, and the economic impact they have on Canada’ – 65% agree vs. 15% disagree
  • ‘The oil sands sector’s success is Canada’s success and contributes to Canada’s success economically and politically’ – 62% agree vs. 19% disagree
  • ‘The oil sands are one of Canada’s most important natural resources’ – 62% agree vs. 20% disagree
  • ‘Canadians are proud of Canada’s collective efforts to continue to find better ways to produce the oil sands’ – 61% agree vs. 19% disagree
  • ‘Developing the oil sands is key to the future economic prosperity of Canada’ – 58% agree vs. 24% disagree
  • ‘The oil sands sector is one of Canada’s most innovative industries’ – 55% agree vs. 23% disagree
  • ‘The success of Canada’s oil sands sector is world leading’ – 54% agree vs. 21% disagree

Thinking about the effect of the oil sands industry on Canada’s economy, Canadians were asked to reflect on a few key statements about the oil sands industry’s impact on the Canadian economy, here’s how Canadian public opinion breaks down on the topic:

(Click to enlarge image)

Debating the Oil Sands...

The oil sands have frequently made their rounds within Canadian media news sources, but most Canadians agree that much of the debate is centered around rhetoric and should only talk about the facts.

Four in five (77%) ‘agree’ (46% strongly/30% somewhat) that ‘conversations about the oil sands should be based in science and not rhetoric’, while just one in ten (7%) ‘disagree’ (1% strongly/6% somewhat) and one in five (15%) have no opinion. A further three-quarters (74%) ‘agree’ (42% strongly/32% somewhat) that ‘they’re tired and turned off by rhetoric from those engaged in debate about the oil sands – they want the facts’, with one in ten (9%) ‘disagreeing’ (2% strongly/7% somewhat) and one in five (17%) citing no opinion.

Two-thirds (65%) of Canadians ‘agree’ (25% strongly/40% somewhat) that ‘they want to learn more about the oil sands and their development’, while 14% ‘disagree’ (3% strongly/11% somewhat) and one in five (21%) have no opinion. An equal proportion (65%) ‘agree’ (29% strongly/36% somewhat) that ‘the focus on the debate about the oil sands should be about how we’re going to transport oil across Canada and into other markets, while two in ten (17%) ‘disagree’ (5% strongly/11% somewhat) and a similar proportion (19%) have no opinion.

Most Canadians are in agreement that the debate about the oil sands should progress to how the resource is developed, not whether it should exist. Three in five (61%) ‘agree’ (31% strongly/30% somewhat) that ‘the debate on whether the oil sands should exist is over and we should move on to how the oil sands should be developed’, with one in five (21%) ‘disagreeing’ (9% strongly/13% somewhat) and another one in five (17%) having no opinion.

Majority (58%) ‘agree’ (22% strongly/36% somewhat) that ‘they’re confident that Canadian industry, and the government, will find the best way to move forward with the oil sands and transportation of oil in Canada’, while one in four (26%) ‘disagree’ (9% strongly/16% somewhat) and one in five (16%) have no opinion.

Grading the Oil Sands…

Canadians were also asked to grade the oil sands industry in a number of areas. The industry receives its best marks when being graded on contributions to the economy, job market, and government coffers, and receives its worst marks when being graded on its ability to protect the environment. The full breakdown is shown below:

(Click to enlarge image)

Final Thoughts…

While there has been much debate surrounding Alberta’s oil sands, the data reveals that there is positive recognition from coast-to-coast towards to the oil sands, ranging from the importance of them as a natural resource for Canada’s economy and job creation to an overarching sense of pride felt towards the continuing efforts to find better ways to produce the oil sands.

Canadians appear to be strongly supportive of increasing the use of oil sands domestically, as opposed to relying on foreign oil, and expanding to other markets rather than just relying on traditional trade partners. Most (75% vs. 14% disagree) Canadians acknowledge the need to access new markets access in which production coming from the oil sands should be prioritized by Canadian refineries before using imports from trading partners. There is also a desire for the Canadian export market to seek out and develop new partnerships so as to reduce reliance on supplying to U.S. markets (70% agree vs. 18% disagree).

A tight majority (53%) ‘agree’ (20% strongly/33% somewhat) that ‘they think, overall, the benefits of development of the oil sands in Canada outweigh the negatives’, compared to the fewer than two in five (36%) who ‘disagree’ (15% strongly/21% somewhat) and one in ten (11%) who have no opinion.

However, the industry has work to do in convincing Canadians that it is doing all it can to reduce the environmental impacts of development, although Canadians seem to be of equally differing opinions in many cases surrounding the oil sands and the environment.

These are some of the findings of an Ipsos Reid poll conducted between October 17th to 22nd, 2013 on behalf of the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP). For this survey, a sample of 2,070 Canadians from Ipsos' Canadian online panel was interviewed online. Weighting was then employed to balance demographics to ensure that the sample's composition reflects that of the adult population according to Census data and to provide results intended to approximate the sample universe. The precision of Ipsos online polls is measured using a credibility interval. In this case, the poll is accurate to within +/- 2.5 percentage points had all Canadians adults been polled. All sample surveys and polls may be subject to other sources of error, including, but not limited to coverage error, and measurement error.

For more information on this news release, please contact:

Dr. Darrell Bricker, PhD
Global CEO
Ipsos Reid Public Affairs

Sean Simpson
Vice President
Ipsos Reid Public Affairs
(416) 572-4474

About Ipsos Reid

Ipsos Reid is Canada's market intelligence leader, the country's leading provider of public opinion research, and research partner for loyalty and forecasting and modelling insights. With operations in eight cities, Ipsos Reid employs more than 600 research professionals and support staff in Canada. The company has the biggest network of telephone call centres in the country, as well as the largest pre-recruited household and online panels. Ipsos Reid's marketing research and public affairs practices offer the premier suite of research vehicles in Canada, all of which provide clients with actionable and relevant information. Staffed with seasoned research consultants with extensive industry-specific backgrounds, Ipsos Reid offers syndicated information or custom solutions across key sectors of the Canadian economy, including consumer packaged goods, financial services, automotive, retail, and technology & telecommunications. Ipsos Reid is an Ipsos company, a leading global survey-based market research group.

To learn more, please visit

About Ipsos

Ipsos is an independent market research company controlled and managed by research professionals. Founded in France in 1975, Ipsos has grown into a worldwide research group with a strong presence in all key markets. In October 2011 Ipsos completed the acquisition of Synovate. The combination forms the world’s third largest market research company.

With offices in 85 countries, Ipsos delivers insightful expertise across six research specializations: advertising, customer loyalty, marketing, media, public affairs research, and survey management.

Ipsos researchers assess market potential and interpret market trends. They develop and build brands. They help clients build long-term relationships with their customers. They test advertising and study audience responses to various media and they measure public opinion around the globe.

Ipsos has been listed on the Paris Stock Exchange since 1999 and generated global revenues of €1,789 billion (2.300 billion USD) in 2012.

Three-Quarters (75%) of Canadians Believe Oil Refineries Should Prioritize Local Oil Before Importing From Other Countries


Darrell Bricker
CEO, Global
Ipsos Public Affairs
Sean Simpson
Vice President, Canada
Ipsos Public Affairs