Thursday, May 07, 2015

A turnover in Canada: Imagine if liberal Democrats suddenly controlled the Texas legislature

What Alberta's shocking election results could mean for the oil sands

Updated by Brad Plumer on May 6, 2015, Vox

As a rule, provincial elections in Canada don't attract a ton of attention in the United States. Why would they? It's not like people in Canada are fixated every time there's a governor's race in Pennsylvania.

But then came Tuesday's stunning election in Alberta — and, suddenly, the entire world was interested in the results.

Partly it's just a fascinating political story. Alberta is the conservative heart of Canada, with an economy dominated by the oil industry. The Conservative party has held power there for 43 years. On Tuesday, everything changed. The New Democratic Party (NDP), a labor-left party long on the political sidelines, unexpectedly won a majority of seats in the provincial legislature (in part because two right-wing parties split the vote). Imagine if liberal Democrats suddenly controlled the Texas statehouse.

A more substantive reason for the attention, though, has to do with energy. Canada is the world's fifth-largest oil producer, with about 78 percent of that produced in Alberta. Four-fifths that comes from the province's vast oil sands — the root of the endless controversy over the Keystone XL pipeline in the United States. The recent increase in Alberta's oil-sands production has also been a big factor pushing down global oil prices. It's an important place.

And now comes an election that could, potentially, roil this entire set-up. Conservative governments in Alberta have long had a relatively light hand in regulating the oil industry. Suddenly there's a new, left-leaning NDP government promising to negotiate new climate policies, to increase oil and gas royalties, and to quit lobbying President Obama to approve the Keystone XL pipeline. So what will this election mean for those famous oil sands?

(More here.)

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