Liberals Post Upset Win in British Columbia Vote

British Columbia Premier Christy Clark’s Liberal Party defeated the opposition New Democratic Party in a surprise election result that may bolster plans by Enbridge Inc. to ship more oil across the Canadian province.

The ruling Liberals won 50 of the province’s 85 electoral areas, according to results posted on the Elections BC website. The opposition NDP led by Adrian Dix won 33 seats, the Green Party took one and there was one independent. Clark was defeated in her own district in Vancouver. The Liberals took about 44 percent of the vote, versus the NDP’s 39 percent.

Dix, 49, was favored to win the election, and had vowed to block plans by Enbridge and Kinder Morgan Energy Partners LP to expand oil shipments from Alberta through Canada’s western-most province. Clark didn’t rule out increased oil shipments, while imposing five conditions on the projects.

The Liberal victory is positive for natural resource development in British Columbia and for efforts to expand trade with Asia, said Greg D’Avignon, chief executive officer of the Business Council of British Columbia.

“One of the key messages coming out of this was Mr. Dix’s decision to oppose the Kinder Morgan pipeline expansion without having seen the details,” D’Avignon said. “What British Columbians said was, ‘we want principled decision making that creates investment certainty’ and that’s good news for the business community.”

Pipeline Projects

The pipeline projects through British Columbia by Calgary-based Enbridge and Kinder Morgan of Houston would together move more than 1 million barrels a day from Alberta, home to the world’s third-largest oil reserves. Oil-sands output will increase to 3.8 million barrels a day by 2022, double that of a decade earlier, according to Alberta’s main energy regulator.

Kinder Morgan isn’t prepared to comment on the British Columbia election until the result is officially confirmed by Elections BC, Lisa Clement, a spokeswoman for the company’s Trans Mountain expansion project in Vancouver, said in a phone interview yesterday. Todd Nogier, a spokesman for Enbridge, declined to comment before official results were in.

Dix’s NDP was expected to oust the ruling Liberals based on the latest polls. Clark, 47, narrowed the gap in the final weeks of the campaign by pledging to be a better steward of the economy and vowing to post a budget surplus this fiscal year.

‘A Shock’

“Regardless of how the final votes come down, it’s a shock,” Richard Johnston, a political science professor at the University of British Columbia, said in a telephone interview from Vancouver. “The popular vote for the Liberals is much stronger than suggested in the public opinion polls -- it’s a pretty striking result.”

The winning party needs 43 seats to form a majority government; otherwise it requires opposition support to approve legislation in Canada’s third-most populous province.

Clark, a former radio-show host, has been premier for two years after she replaced former leader Gordon Campbell, who stepped down.

The NDP was favored to oust the Liberals, who have been in power for 12 years. The New Democrats had the support of 45 percent of British Columbians, while Clark’s Liberals had 36 percent, according to an online survey of 808 people published by Angus Reid Public Opinion on May 11. The survey’s margin of error was plus or minus 3.5 percent.

Alberta Result

The surprise result mirrors the election last year in neighboring Alberta in which Premier Alison Redford defeated challenger Danielle Smith of the Wildrose Alliance, who had led in most polls ahead of the vote.

Clark’s budget in February forecast a surplus in the fiscal year that began in April by lifting tax rates on companies and top income earners.

The province will post a C$197 million ($195 million) surplus in 2013-2014, after reporting a deficit of C$1.23 billion in the previous year. The budget assumes economic growth of 1.6 percent for the province, whose industries including forestry, mining, natural gas and tourism.

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