VANCOUVER -- British Columbians have softened their stance towards the Trans Mountain pipeline, and one pollster pegs the change to the federal government's 2018 decision to buy the project.

"The moment the federal government got involved and started to talk about purchasing the pipeline, it made a lot of residents move from moderate opposition to strong support," said Mario Canseco, the president of Vancouver-based polling firm Research Co.

"And that is why we see half of B.C. residents saying that they want to see this built."

Canseco's recent survey, published Dec. 18, showed that 56 per cent of British Columbians agree with the federal government's decision to re-approve the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion, while 35 per cent said they disagree, and 10 per cent said they were undecided.

The pipeline project would see an expansion of an existing oil pipeline that currently runs from Edmonton, Alberta to Burnaby, B.C.

When it comes to a regional break-down, the survey showed the following levels of support for the pipeline project:

  • 51 per cent in Metro Vancouver;
  • 59 per cent in the Fraser Valley;
  • 49 per cent in Vancouver Island;
  • 74 per cent in southern B.C.; and
  • 71 per cent in northern B.C.

Canseco said while the numbers have stayed mostly the same for southern and northern B.C., support has grown dramatically in Metro Vancouver and Vancouver Island.

"You go back three years ago and the level of opposition to the project in Vancouver Island was sky-high, and the numbers in Metro Vancouver were similar," Canseco said.

Canseco said the change from strong opposition to moderate or even strong support started to happen after the federal government announced plans to buy the pipeline from Texas-based Kinder Morgan.

"The moment the federal government got involved, it was more difficult to get that grassroots (environmental activism)," Canseco said.

"Now it's the federal government saying it's in the nation's best interest, and not a company based in Texas."

But while British Columbians overall have warmed to the pipeline, belief that the project will bring many jobs has waned. British Columbians are also feeling less fearful that the project will have major problems that could cause pollution or safety incidents.

When it comes to who remains opposed to twinning the pipeline, Canseco said opposition is higher among younger people and women: 43 per cent of women, and 51 per cent of 18- to 34-year-olds, said the provincial government should do anything necessary to ensure the pipeline expansion does not get built.

Canseco said that's a theme that's stayed consistent whenever he does polling on environmental or climate change issues.

"I think younger generations and women tend to look at climate change in a different way than men and older generations," Canseco said. "This has been consistent whenever I ask anything about climate change or the environment: the 18- to-34s, and the women, tend to be on the side of let's do something now – let's not wait."

The poll was conducted online from Dec. 4 to Dec. 7, 2019, among 800 adults in British Columbia. The margin of error is plus or minus 3.5 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.