Canada Tories to follow tax-cut, pro-business agenda

Tue May 3, 2011 3:53pm EDT
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By Jeffrey Jones and Janet Guttsman

CALGARY/OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, now backed by a powerful parliamentary majority, said on Tuesday the energy sector can rest easy that his government will not impede plans to vastly expand the country's oil sands output and ship some of the crude to Asia.

Harper, in his Western Canadian home base of Calgary on the morning after his Conservatives won big in the federal election, singled out the Western-based oil industry as being a beneficiary of his party's pro-business agenda, which will also include corporate tax cuts and deficit reduction. Investors greeted the result with relief.

"There were a lot of policies being quoted by the other parties, whether it's on West Coast transportation or the energy sector, that simply did not reflect the needs and concerns of this part of the country," he told reporters.

"I actually argued during the campaign that the policies of our opponents were actually quite dangerous to the country as a whole, but obviously some specific policies seemed to be almost targeted to do damage to Western Canada."

The Conservatives won 167 of 308 seats in the House of Commons in Monday's vote, giving Harper a third mandate since 2006 and his first majority. Until now, the Conservatives' minority-government status has meant they had to compromise with other parties on many policies.

The left-leaning New Democratic Party (NDP), which made record gains in Monday's vote to become the official opposition for the first time, and the Liberals, who suffered a drubbing and finished third, both opposed increased tanker traffic on the Pacific Coast.

The idea of shipping tar-sands derived oil to Asia is key to Enbridge Inc's proposed C$5.5 billion ($5.8 billion) Northern Gateway pipeline to the coast from Alberta. Harper has said he would not try to block tanker traffic.

Canada is already the largest oil supplier to the United States. The oil industry is looking to expand production and diversify markets to increase returns, but is opposed by environmentalists and many politicians on the left.   Continued...