New poll shows Canadians vastly overestimate role of tar sands in the economy

Poll also shows majority of Canadians want economic, energy strategies focussed on developing a cleaner economy

TORONTO, July 4, 2014 /CNW/ - A new poll shows Canadians are confused about the tar sands' significance to our economy. According to Statistics Canada, the tar sands account for just two per cent of Canada's GDP. But polling conducted by Environics and released today by Environmental Defence shows that the majority of Canadians, 57 per cent, overestimate the tar sands' contribution to the Canadian economy. Forty-one per cent of Canadians believe the tar sands' contribution to our economy is between 6 and 24 times higher than it actually is.

"We are routinely told our economy will sputter, governments won't be able to balance budgets, and social services will have to be sacrificed if we don't triple the size of the tar sands as fast as possible," says Tim Gray, Executive Director of Environmental Defence. "But this simply isn't true. The tar sands are not the primary driver of our economy, their contribution is relatively small and certainly not sufficient to justify the risks of planned massive expansion."

Although the majority of Canadians believe the tar sands' contribution to our economy is bigger than it really is, most Canadians also think we should be transitioning off the tar sands in favour of cleaner energy.

The polling shows a large majority of Canadians, 76 per cent, agree with the statement: Given concerns about climate change, Canada should be shifting its energy strategy away from dependence on fossil fuels and towards cleaner energy. Three quarters of Albertans felt this way. And the majority of Canadians, 66 per cent, want an economic strategy less focussed on tar sands development.  

"The numbers speak for themselves. Canadians are clearly ready for a safer, cleaner, more prosperous energy future," Gray says. "The government needs to catch up with Canadians and start the move away from high risk, high carbon, high cost tar sands."

The oil industry and the federal government have invested tens of millions of dollars in slick tar sands public relations campaigns at home and abroad. At the same time, government's support for clean energy has plummeted and there is continued failure to introduce regulations to control soaring climate change pollution from the oil and gas sector.

"It is profoundly wrongheaded that in the name of tar sands expansion and their purported importance to our economy, Canadian environment laws have been gutted, our international reputation has been tarnished, and our water, land, air and climate have been damaged. The tar sands account for a sliver of Canada's economy," Gray adds. "Canada has a lot more to offer. We could be leaders in an innovative, prosperous, and clean economy – we can and must do better."

This polling data presents the findings of an online survey conducted among 1,011 adults from Wednesday June 18th through Monday, June 23rd, 2014. To qualify for this survey, respondents had to be 18 years of age or older and reside in Canada.

Key findings from the survey can be viewed at www.environmentaldefence.ca/poll

About ENVIRONMENTAL DEFENCE (www.environmentaldefence.ca): Environmental Defence is Canada's most effective environmental action organization. We challenge, and inspire change in government, business and people to ensure a greener, healthier and prosperous life for all.

SOURCE Environmental Defence

For further information: Naomi Carniol, Environmental Defence, 416-323-9521 ext 258, 416-570-2878 (cell), ncarniol@environmentaldefence.ca; Stephanie Kohls, Environmental Defence, 416-323-9521 ext 232, 416-885-7847 (cell), skohls@environmentaldefence.ca