May 13, 2009 / 5:39 AM / 9 years ago

British Columbia re-elects Liberal government

VANCOUVER, British Columbia (Reuters) - British Columbia Premier Gordon Campbell’s Liberal Party won re-election on Tuesday in a vote that will also preserve North America’s first comprehensive carbon tax.

<p>British Columbia Premier Gordon Campbell greets supporters at his election night headquarters after winning his third straight provincial election in Vancouver, British Columbia May 12, 2009. REUTERS/Andy Clark</p>

The right-of-center Liberals, who have held power since 2001, defeated the left-leaning New Democrats, who had vowed to abolish the tax introduced by Campbell last year to reduce greenhouse gas emissions linked to global warming.

It marks the third time Campbell has won election with a majority government, with local media outlets showing the Liberal elected or leading in races for 48 seats in the provincial legislature compared to 37 for the New Democrats.

Campbell told supporters the vote sends a message to politicians in other areas worried about enacting controversial environmental measures such as a carbon tax “that it can be done, and it must be done.”

The Liberals also benefited from voter concern over the weak economy, which NDP leader Carole James acknowledged after the vote had hurt her party.

The 28-day election campaign had been relatively bland, and at times was overshadowed for the public’s attention by the National Hockey League playoffs, which until Monday had included the Vancouver Canucks.

The carbon tax launched last year applies to nearly all fossil fuels, including gasoline and home heating fuel, starting at C$10 ($8.55) per tonne of carbon emissions in 2008 and increasing by C$5 a tonne annually for four years.

The NDP said the tax was unfair to the poor and rural communities, but its vow to scrap the levy was denounced during the election by major environmental groups that have traditionally supported the party.

Voters also defeated a measure that would have introduced an Irish-style vote-splitting system instead of the first-past-the-post system now used in all Canadian provinces and U.S. states, according to media projections.

($1 = $1.17 Canadian)

Reporting Allan Dowd; editing by Mohammad Zargham

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