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Justin Trudeau’s Liberals’ powerful election victory shows that the environmental left’s message remains on the political fringe — even if it does mean a more cautious federal approach to energy development in Canada.
The anti-energy movement’s failure to translate opposition to oil pipelines, tankers and oilsands development into political support is apparent in British Columbia, where the Liberals dominated Metro Vancouver, the Green party failed to build on Elizabeth May’s single seat in Saanich-Gulf Islands, and the NDP’s early lead collapsed despite efforts by politically active groups like Dogwood Initiative to turn the election into a referendum on oil pipelines and tankers.
The Liberals even scooped the new riding of Burnaby North-Seymour, a closely watched race where political newcomer Terry Beech, a small-business owner, defeated by a wide margin the NDP’s star candidate, Carol Baird Ellan, a former chief judge of the Provincial Court of British Columbia who was endorsed by activists opposed to the expansion of the TransMountain pipeline.
The Greens scraped out just five per cent support for Simon Fraser University professor Lynne Quarmby, who was involved in the Burnaby Mountain protests against the Kinder Morgan project.
The riding straddles Burrard Inlet, where TransMountain’s pipeline terminal is located, and where oil tankers sail by.
“Maybe Burnaby North-Seymour was a referendum (on energy) after all — one in which the alarmist tanker safety views of some candidates were contrasted with a Conservative approach that seemed too soft on the proponent, and voters chose a middle path,” said Stewart Muir, executive director of Vancouver-based energy research organization Resource Works, in an analysis of election results.
In an interview, Muir said the bellwether riding demonstrated that British Columbians want a balance between the economy and the environment.
While the Conservatives failed to successfully promote that, voters did not flip to an anti-oil party but chose one that would strike the balance better, he said.
The Liberals took 17 seats in B.C, gaining 15 from 2011; the NDP ended with 14, up 2; the Conservatives held on to 10, down from 21.
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