BC vote could decide carbon tax's future

Tue Apr 14, 2009 6:30pm EDT
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By Allan Dowd

VANCOUVER, British Columbia (Reuters) - Politicians on Canada's Pacific Coast hit the campaign trail on Tuesday for the start of a provincial election that could decide the fate of North America's first comprehensive carbon tax.

British Columbia is the first province to hold an election since Canada slid into recession, although polls indicate the governing Liberal Party is headed for another victory over the New Democratic Party when voters cast their ballots on May 12.

NDP leader Carole James called on voters to punish Premier Gordon Campbell's Liberals for mishandling the economic downturn, which has pushed unemployment in the province's largely resource-based economy to 7.4 percent.

"British Columbia has had the worst job losses in the country. We need a change," James told a rally near Vancouver.

The Liberals, who have governed the province since 2001, say the New Democrats mismanaged British Columbia's finances when the economy was doing well in the 1990s and cannot be trusted to handle it now when times are tough.

"British Columbians know this election is critical to their future and that the progress we have made could all be lost in a heartbeat if they make the wrong choice on May 12," Campbell said in a written statement.

A survey released by research firm Mustel Group showed the right-of-center Liberals with 52 percent support among decided voters, compared with 35 percent for the left-leaning NDP and 12 percent for the Green Party.

The campaign has created an unusual dilemma for the province's environmental activists. They have traditionally sided with the New Democrats but now object to the NDP's plans to scrap the carbon tax launched by the Liberals last year.   Continued...

<p>British Columbia's Premier Gordon Campbell speaks during a news conference after the Council of the Federation at the Chateau Frontenac in Quebec City, July 18, 2008. REUTERS/Mathieu Belanger</p>