ROI Poll: What do the numbers really mean?

Contributed to The San Francisco Chronicle
Dave Collyer
President and CEO
Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers
February 14, 2012

A recently released Return on Insight (ROI) survey shows more than two-thirds of Albertans think the oil and gas industry is doing an adequate or better job of communicating with the general public. While ROI suggests this data indicates a pressing need for improvement, given the difficult issues the industry and Albertans face, CAPP is actually quite pleased.

Data in the ROI survey showed 90 per cent of respondents indicated industry does an "adequate, good or very good" job of creating jobs and wealth. That's good news, but not surprising. To industry, the biggest surprise in the survey was that 71 per cent of Albertans-almost three-quarters-believe industry does an "adequate, good or very good" job of "Balancing Environment with Development." Given the complex and serious nature of the issues we face - whether in the oil sands, natural gas development or elsewhere-we are pleased continuous improvement of environmental performance is recognized.

Also in the survey, but not highlighted by ROI's media release, is that Albertans are also supportive of industry's work with First Nations with 63 per cent indicating industry does an "adequate, good or very good" job of "Working with First Nations." While there are many positive examples of constructive relationships with and benefits to aboriginal people, challenges also exist. This data seems to indicate Albertans appreciate both, with the greater balance of opinion (41 per cent) being that industry's role is actually "good" or "very good." That's twice as many who said "poor" or "very poor" (20 per cent).

So, is the bottom line to ROI's survey a meaningful critique of industry and government? Or is this another example of polling data being used selectively to support an agenda?

We don't know. We can only say the oil and gas industry will never be a stranger to controversy, or the moderately mixed views reflected in this poll. In the meantime, we'll focus on performance improvement, consulting with our stakeholders, working with First Nations and delivering economics benefits and reliable energy to Canadians.

As PR consultant critiques go, we'll take the pollster's data - but not his conclusions - from this one, knowing that our efforts are noticed by Albertans and that our work, as always, is never done.