Polarization over Energy and Climate in Canada: Oil and Gas

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, 11.2MB) offers new insights into polarization by drawing the distinction between polarized opinion and fragmented opinion. Polarized opinion refers to opinions grouped at the extreme ends of a spectrum. People don’t just agree or disagree, they do so strongly. Fragmented opinion refers to differences of opinion that aren’t necessarily hardened at either end of the spectrum. This distinction is vital for decision-makers looking to chart a path forward for Canada’s energy and climate future. Polarized opinions are difficult for governments to deal with because peoples’ opinions may become less malleable and less amenable to compromise. Fragmented opinions are more open to change.

The analysis

Our results (PDF, 1.9MB) reveal that opinion on these energy and climate issues are polarized by party affiliation far more than any other factor, while opinions are less likely to be polarized by ideology, age group, gender or region. This suggests that cues and rhetoric from political parties and other actors may be exacerbating the extent of ideological differences among Canadians.

Overall, Canadians appear optimistic that Canada can reconcile ambitious climate policies, a growing and environmentally responsible oil and gas sector and a strong export market that can displace more polluting forms of energy abroad. Canadians also want a long-term vision for the country’s energy and climate future from the federal government and they believe that provinces should have flexibility to develop their own climate strategies.

Media coverage