Donald Trump’s defence of coal helped him win the U.S. election. Trudeau has no such incentive
In promising an end to what he called U.S. President Barack Obama’s “war on coal,” Donald Trump won the strong support of America’s coal miners, who played an important role in his victories in two key swing states.
But the Liberal government’s decision to phase out coal-fired power generation in Canada by 2030 is unlikely to have significant electoral ramifications for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
Trump’s pledge to bring jobs back to America’s beleaguered mining communities was one factor in his defeat of Hillary Clinton two weeks ago. In Ohio and Pennsylvania, two states that swung to the Republicans, Trump did significantly better in western Pennsylvania and eastern Ohio than Mitt Romney did four years ago.
Trump beat Clinton in this part of “coal country” by margins of 30 to 45 points — about twice Romney’s margin of victory over Obama in these areas. Coal miners were not the only reason for Clinton’s defeat. But in a close election, she could not afford to alienate any portion of the electorate to such a significant degree.
In Canada, however, the Liberals are unlikely to run the same kind of risk, though the economic impact on the coal industry could be huge. The coal consumed in Canada for generating electricity is equivalent to roughly half of all coal produced here.
Not all coal is destined for electricity generation. Mines that produce coal for the steel-making process, for example, would not be directly impacted by the government’s coal phase-out. Nevertheless, the decision could still create the perception that there is a “war on coal,” a perception successfully tapped by Trump.
Coal country is not Liberal country
According to the Coal Association of Canada, there are currently 24 coal mines that are permitted and/or operating across the country. Ten of them are located in British Columbia, nine in Alberta, three in Saskatchewan and two in Nova Scotia. Cutting their potential market in half is unlikely to hurt the Liberals, as all but two of these mines are located in ridings not currently held by the party.
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