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Enviro groups bracing for Harper majority

The Conservative party's historic leap to a majority mandate raises some concerns for those with an eye on energy policy.

"I can clearly see that there is now nothing in the way of the Northern Gateway pipeline going across British Columbia," said Sierra Club executive director John Bennett, referring to the proposed Enbridge pipeline that would send bitumen from Alberta to a port in Kitimat B.C.

"There is nothing in the way of lifting the ban on tankers in inland waters in B.C. Nothing in the way to control the booming expansion of the tar sands."

With Conservative MPs dominating Ottawa, the Sierra Club will shift its focus away from parliamentary process, targeting action from individual Canadians instead, Bennett said.

"Five years in terms of promoting and pushing for private members bills on the Climate Accountability Act and the Kyoto Implementation Act to get things through that way, that avenue has now been closed."

But the Pembina Institute's Ed Whittingham sees some opportunities in a majority government. "Now the Conservatives have all the mandate they need to move forward on a national energy strategy," said Whittingham. A national energy strategy would allow the government to address energy related issues together, rather than independently -- something those in the energy industry and environmentalists agree is needed.

But Whittingham has some concerns also.

"What keeps me up at night is given the gravity of energy and environment challenges that we face, we need strong federal leadership," he said. "I'm worried that Stephen Harper will shrink those parts of the government that need to play a strong role in tackling those environmental issues."

Regardless, the Pembina Institute, a "national non-partisan think tank," promised to work with the new Conservative government.

"Mr. Harper's actions on climate change and clean energy to date have been inadequate relative to the need and the opportunity," said Whittingham. 

"In the months to come, we'll be looking to Mr. Harper's government to strengthen Canada's environmental performance."

Tyler Harbottle is completing a practicum at the Tyee

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