We’ve been having a lot of conversations lately about the role of the tar sands in Canada’s economy. We’ve chatted with friends, neighbours, and others. And we often heard the same thing; many people are under the mistaken impression that the economy could crumble if we stop expanding the tar sands. But the truth is, according to Statistics Canada, the tar sands account for just two per cent of Canada’s GDP. That’s hardly what we’d call a major economic driver.
So we decided to speak to more people. We commissioned respected polling firm Environics to poll Canadians and ask how important they thought the tar sands are to our economy, and what they thought we should be doing about it. And there were some surprises in the findings.
We weren’t surprised that a majority of respondents were confused about the role of the tar sands in our economy. Fifty-seven per cent of Canadians overestimated the value of the tar sands in the national economy. Forty-one per cent of Canadians believe the impact of the oil sands on our economy is between 6 and 24 times higher than it actually is. It’s understandable Canadians are confused, especially given the slick advertising campaigns designed to convince the public of the tar sands’ economic strength.
What surprised us is that despite this overestimation, given concerns about climate change, most Canadians still think we should be moving away from fossil fuels and towards cleaner energy. A large majority, 76 per cent, of Canadians believe that given climate concerns, we should be moving away from a dependence on fossil fuels towards cleaner energy. And a majority, 66 per cent, of Canadians agree that Canada should be working towards an economy strategy less dependent on the tar sands.
That is pretty impressive. While the government and industry have spent hundreds of millions of dollars on slick PR to greenwash the tar sands, Canadians can still see the risk and damage tar sands come with.
Canadians see past the slick ads and understand the truth; the tar sands are damaging the land, water, air and climate. Canadians deserve a real conversation about the role of tar sands in our country. The government’s intent to rapidly expand the tar sands is costing us our climate goals, our international reputation, decade’s worth of environmental law, and trampling First Nations rights – all for a sliver of our economy.
Given that the tar sands are so high in carbon, they will be the first to go in a carbon-constrained world. Investment is already faltering with project delays and cancellations serving as another reminder that rapid tar sands growth is far from inevitable.
These numbers speak for themselves. Canadians are clearly ready for a safer, cleaner, more prosperous energy future. Imagine if we were moving clean electricity rather than high risk dirty oil; Investing in cutting edge innovation in clean energy rather than the tar sands; Taking the same skills needed to build pipelines and oil wells and building better, faster transportation options for Canadians.
A better future is at our finger tips and Canadians are ready for it even when they’re under the false impression that the tar sands drive our economy. It’s time Canadians are told the truth – the tar sands are doing us few economic favours and so moving on from them is even more of a no-brainer.
We’re all ready for a better Canada and a safer future. Let’s demand that the government catch up and help build a Canada that we can all be proud of.
Take action here.
See the key findings from the polling here.