Polarization over Energy and Climate in Canada: Canada's Climate Performance, Renewables, Nuclear, Community Roles

The University of Ottawa’s Positive Energy program uses the convening power of the university to bring together academic researchers and senior decision-makers from industry, government, Indigenous communities, local communities and environmental organizations to determine how to strengthen public confidence in energy decision-making.

Mockup of the report.

The survey

This survey research (PDF, 6.4MB) builds on previous rounds of Positive Energy survey analysis from 2019 and 2020. It draws the distinction between polarized opinion and fragmented opinion. Polarized opinion refers to opinions that have become clustered at extreme ends of a spectrum. When people are polarized they don’t just disagree, they disagree strongly. Fragmented opinion refers to differences of opinion that aren’t necessarily hardened and thus may be more amenable to compromise or persuasion. This distinction is vital for decision-makers looking to chart a path forward for Canada’s energy and climate future. Previous rounds of analysis show that opinions are most commonly polarized along partisan, ideological and regional lines, in that order. 

The analysis

This analysis (PDF, 1.8MB) focus on three issues that matter for Canada’s energy future in an age of climate change: the country’s climate performance; the present and future of renewables and nuclear energy; and the role that local communities should play in energy infrastructure projects. We break out results based on political party affiliation, ideology, region, gender and age.

A plurality of Canadians agree that Canada is doing its fair share on climate change. However, the issue is fragmented overall, and tends towards polarized along partisan lines. Renewables enjoy overwhelming support, while opinion on nuclear is fragmented across the country and polarized in Québec. Canadians tend to agree that local communities should have the final say on whether energy projects go ahead, with some fragmentation along partisan and regional lines.