British Columbia Voters Go to Polls as New Democrats Lead

Voters in British Columbia go to the polls today with Adrian Dix, leader of the New Democratic Party who opposes new oil pipelines in the Canadian province, favored to oust Premier Christy Clark.

The NDP is nine percentage points ahead of the ruling Liberal Party, according to an Angus Reid Public Opinion poll. Dix’s party has the support of 45 percent of British Columbians, while Clark’s Liberals have 36 percent, according to the online survey of 808 people published on May 11. The survey’s margin of error was plus or minus 3.5 percent.

“I think it will be a rather close one,” Jozef Hubburmin, chief financial officer at Vancouver-based Fresh Direct Produce Ltd., a closely held importer of vegetables and fruit, said yesterday in a telephone interview. “It’s going to be tighter than opinion polls are suggesting.”

During the election campaign, Dix, 49, questioned the Liberals’ ability to eliminate the provincial deficit while taking a hard line against proposed pipelines to deliver crude to Asia Pacific markets from Alberta’s oil sands.

The general election, the first for both Clark and Dix as party leaders, is also contested by the Conservative Party of British Columbia and the Green Party. About 3.1 million people have been registered, according to Elections BC, the voting agency for Canada’s western-most province.

Polling stations opened at 8 a.m. Vancouver time, and close at 8 p.m. (11 p.m. New York time.)

Majority Government

The Liberals are seeking to extend their 12-year reign for four years by emphasizing the party’s fiscal management, including a proposed balanced budget for the year that began April 1. Clark, 47, has been premier for more than two years after former leader Gordon Campbell stepped down.

At the close of the legislative session about a month ago, the Liberals had 45 seats in the 85-member house; the NDP had 36 and there were four independents. The winning party needs 43 seats to form a majority government; otherwise it needs opposition support to approve legislation in Canada’s third-most populous province.

Dix reaffirmed his opposition to Calgary-based Enbridge Inc.’s proposed C$6 billion ($6 billion) Northern Gateway line from Alberta to Kitimat, British Columbia, in a statement on April 22. He also has said he is against Kinder Morgan Energy Partners LP’s plan to turn Vancouver into a major oil export hub with the twinning of its existing Trans Mountain line that ends near the city, Shruti Joshi, a party spokeswoman, said by phone on May 10. Dix, a member of the B.C. legislature since 2005, had previously reserved judgment on Trans Mountain, pending Kinder Morgan’s regulatory application for the expansion.

Five Conditions

Clark has set out five conditions for her support of Enbridge’s planned conduit through British Columbia, including a “fair share” of economic benefits for the province, according to a statement from her office.

Clark, a former radio talk-show host, has vowed to keep the province’s debt under control by encouraging development of natural resources and forging closer trade ties with rapidly growing economies in Asia.

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