Canadians oust Stephen Harper, elect prime minister promising big climate shift

Source: Christa Marshall, E&E reporter • Posted: Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Canada’s Liberal Party surged to a resounding victory in national elections, ousting long-serving Prime Minister Stephen Harper and setting up the country for a dramatic turn on climate policy.

Liberal leader Justin Trudeau — who will be the country’s next prime minister — has pledged to consider greenhouse gas impacts in approving oil pipelines similar to Keystone XL and called for new national climate targets and a ramp up in renewable energy. His policies are expected to be a sharp shift from those of Harper, who withdrew from the Kyoto Protocol, cut funding for climate science and renewable energy, and won the derision of environmentalists because of his staunch support for development in the oil sands — the country’s fastest-growing source of greenhouse gas emissions (ClimateWire, Oct. 19).

The Liberal Party won more than 170 seats in the Canadian Parliament, the threshold to form a majority government and avoid complicated negotiations with other political parties to move an agenda.

“Canadians have spoken. … You want a government with a vision and an agenda for this country that is positive and ambitious and hopeful,” said the 43-year-old Trudeau last night after the election was called.

The results were a bit of a surprise, as earlier polls indicated that the Liberal Party might not gain an outright majority or that Harper might remain in power. After almost a decade in power, Harper was hit with low approval ratings exacerbated by sagging oil prices.

What Trudeau’s energy promises will mean in reality remains a bit of a mystery — the Liberal platform left out many details, such as the exact numbers behind promised-for new greenhouse gas emission targets.

“They are keeping their options open,” said Keith Stewart of Greenpeace Canada. Trudeau supports Keystone XL but slammed Harper in the campaign for allowing the oil sands to become an international “scapegoat on climate change.”

Trudeau is the son of Pierre Trudeau, who served as Canada’s prime minister from 1968 to 1979 and from 1980 to 1984.