Justin Trudeau’s Liberal Party stormed to a majority government in Canada Monday evening—sweeping away a decade of Conservative rule under Stephen Harper, boosting their share of the popular vote by more than 20 points, and increasing their seat count in the House of Commons from 34 to 184 as of this morning at 7:30 EDT. (Some ridings will likely be subject to recounts.)
Harper’s Conservatives were reduced to 99 seats in the 338-member House, and will form the Official Opposition. Harper is expected to resign as Conservative leader today but retain his Commons seat. The New Democratic Party was reduced from Official Opposition status to a preliminary count of 44 seats.
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Climate change and energy received scant attention during the campaign, and party platforms were largely silent on the specifics of reducing Canada’s reliance on a volatile fossil fuel economy.
Clean Energy Canada and Analytica Advisors documented a year ago that renewable energy and energy efficiency created more direct jobs than the tar sands/oil sands, before factoring in a flurry of job cuts in fossil fuels. And several provincial premiers—including at least two Liberals—have shown significant leadership on carbon pricing and clean energy development.
But on the campaign trail, Trudeau’s most widely-reported comments on climate and energy included his support for the controversial Keystone XL pipeline and his refusal to set a firm national greenhouse gas target until sometime after the make-or-break climate change summit in Paris at the end of the year.
“What we need is not ambitious political targets,” Trudeau told CBC’s The House October 10. “What we need is an ambitious plan to reduce our emissions in the country.”
Even so, most observers are cautiously optimistic about a return to a more consultative, science-based approach to energy policy-making. That would follow a decade-long regime that gutted the country’s environmental regulations, prevented federal scientists from reporting their publicly-funded research, deployed the Canada Revenue Agency to audit environmental charities it perceived as hostile, and declared peaceful protesters “eco-terrorists” if they opposed uncontrolled fossil fuel development.
In the dying days of the campaign, Trudeau said improved relations with the United States would be one of his top priorities as prime minister, adding that he would work with the Obama Administration to address environmental concerns around projects like Keystone.
“It’ll be one of my most crucial priorities to begin once again having a productive and constructive relationship with our closest ally and neighbour,” he said, adding that that relationship is about more than just one project. “That has actually been a point of frustration for the Americans that I’ve spoken with, that all this government wants to talk about is a single pipeline project.”