Canada Votes Conservative; Oil and Gas Industry Win

Canadians handed a major victory to its Conservative party in national elections earlier this month.

Conservatives won 167 out of 308 seats, giving the party a majority government–the first in 23 years. Previously, the Conservative party, headed by Prime Minister Stephen Harper, had to form coalitions with minority partners to pass legislation. But no longer.

As a result, federal policy is likely to move more quickly along its current track of supporting the oil and gas industry over commitments to the Kyoto Protocol and other environmental concerns–even as provincial governments in Ontario and British Columbia continue to lead the push for clean energy initiatives.

New Democrats, for the first time, won more seats than the Liberal party, making it the largest minority in the federal government, with 102 seats. The party has a strong green track record and proposed a cap-and-trade system as a major piece of its campaign platform. The party also proposed the Climate Change Accountability Act, which would commit Canada to reducing greenhouse gas emissions to a level 80% below that of 1990 by the year 2050.

The Liberal party, which now holds a mere 34 seats, also supports an 80% by 2050 target for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. However, combined, the two parties still represent few votes than Conservatives, meaning Canada is unlikely to take any meaningful steps on reducing greenhouse gas emissions anytime soon. 

In 2006, Harper’s government made it clear that they had no intention of upholding its commitment to cut emissions 6% below 1990 levels under the Kyoto Protocol. In 2009, they said Canada would cut emission 20% by 2020 and 60% to 70% by 2050. But that target was then scaled back in 2010 to 17% by 2020, with no supporting details or policy proposals.

Lastly, the Green party won its first-ever seat in the federal government, giving it an opportunity to draw greater publicity to its signature proposals, which include taxation penalties on heavy polluters and a greenhouse gas reduction goal of 30% below 1990 levels by 2020, "regardless of what other countries do."

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