A stunning provincial election surprise in British Columbia Tuesday returns the more free enterprise Liberal Party to power with a larger majority over the left wing New Democrats (NDP). The NDP was expected to win--it was up eight to nine points in pre-election surveys--because of supposed voter opposition to gas and oil pipelines to connect Alberta's energy fields to ocean shipment points in B.C. The NDP had pledged to stop the pipelines.
The Liberals will exact environmental protections, but they support the pipeline expansions, especially the controversial Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline to ship Alberta tar sands crude oil through Burnaby, B.C. With the oil pipeline and the Enbridge Northern Gateway gas pipeline expansion both likely to get a go-ahead in B.C., Canada's leverage in persuading the Obama Administration to approve the Keystone XL pipeline through the central U.S. probably is increased.
Had the New Democrats, who oppose the B.C. pipelines, won yesterday, the national Canadian government of Prime Minister Stephen Harper would have lost a psychological advantage on the energy issue, as well as a practical alternative to Keystone. Now Mr. Harper can advise the Americans, either allow Keystone to go through or we will send our added energy supplies to China.
The pipeline controversy was expected to hurt the incumbent government of British Columbian Premier Christy Clark. Instead Liberal Party strategists think it helped. British Columbians apparently were satisfied that the gas pipeline and the extension of an oil pipeline would not hurt the environment and would boost the province's economic future. This sentiment was plainly missed by pollsters going into the election.