A right-of-center party swept to power in Canada’s main oil-producing province of Alberta on Tuesday and attacked Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s efforts to fight climate change, raising tension just months ahead of a federal election.
The United Conservative Party (UCP) of Jason Kenney, which had led in the polls for months, crushed the left-leaning New Democratic Party (NDP) government of Rachel Notley amid frustration over the economy and a beleaguered energy industry.
Kenney’s victory means governments in five of the 10 provinces now oppose Trudeau’s plans to combat global warming, which look set to be a major theme of the October election.
Both Kenney and Notley blamed Trudeau for a lack of progress on new oil export pipelines, saying he was pressing for excessively stringent environmental standards at a time when energy producers were clamoring for more capacity.
“We have in Ottawa a federal government that has made a bad situation much worse … (it) is imposing new laws that will make it impossible to get pipelines approved in the future,” Kenney told a victory rally in Calgary.
In an often belligerent campaign, Kenney promised to stand up for Albertans against Trudeau and other politicians he said were taking the province and its oil and gas for granted.
Provisional results showed the UCP had won 63 of the 87 seats in the provincial legislature.
The NDP ended decades of conservative rule in Alberta when it won a 2015 election, but inherited an economy hammered by a global crude price crash.
Notley introduced a carbon tax to help cut emissions of greenhouse gases, a measure Kenney had vowed to scrap. He did not repeat the promise during his speech, calling the measure a “tax grab” instead.
Trudeau this month imposed a price on carbon on four provinces without plans to tackle global warming and made clear he would do the same for Alberta if needed.
“Climate change is real and must be fought,” Trudeau told a town hall in Cambridge, Ontario, on Tuesday before the Alberta results were announced.
In a statement later, Trudeau said he and Kenney would work together to take “decisive action on climate change while getting our natural resources to market.”
Kenney, a 50-year-old former federal cabinet minister, vowed action on jobs and the economy.
Both parties support new oil pipelines, including the Trans Mountain expansion that will triple the amount of crude reaching the Pacific Coast. They also back measures to prop up Alberta’s energy industry, which struggled last year with record discounts on Canadian crude because of pipeline congestion.
“Not many people who are in the energy industry can say Alberta is in a better place than it was four years ago,” said Tim Pickering, president of Auspice Capital Advisers in Calgary, which manages a Canadian crude exchange-traded fund.
Notley told supporters her government had done a tough and difficult job, adding, “Today Alberta is a better place because of it.”