Right-wing opposition sweeps to power in Canada's oil region, sets up fight with Trudeau


By Nia Williams

CALGARY, Alberta, April 16 (Reuters) - A right-of-center party that champions the energy industry swept to power in Canada's main oil-producing province of Alberta on Tuesday, setting up a fight with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau over climate change just months ahead of a federal election.

The United Conservative Party (UCP) of Jason Kenney, which had led in the polls for months, crushed the left-leaning New Democratic Party (NDP) government of Rachel Notley amid frustration over the economy and a beleaguered energy industry.

Loud cheers broke out in the Big Four Roadhouse, a venue in the iconic Calgary Stampede grounds where UCP members had gathered. Provisional results at 11 pm eastern (0400 GMT Wednesday), an hour after voting ended, showed the UCP had won 62 of the 87 seats in the provincial legislature.

The NDP ended decades of conservative rule in Alberta when it won a 2015 election, but inherited an economy hammered by a global crude price crash.

"This means vindication of the very, very difficult defeat that we received in 2015. That was a protest vote, this is a positive vote," said Marguerite Denis, who co-managed the campaign of one UCP candidate.

Notley's government introduced a carbon tax to help cut emissions of greenhouse gases, a measure Kenney promised to scrap. Earlier this month Trudeau imposed a price on carbon on four provinces without plans to tackle global warming and has made clear he would do the same for Alberta if need be.

"Climate change is real and must be fought," Trudeau told a town hall in Cambridge, Ontario on Tuesday evening before the Alberta results were announced.

Kenney, a 50-year-old former federal cabinet minister, vowed to take more decisive action on jobs and the economy. Both Kenney and Notley blame Trudeau for a lack of progress on new oil export pipelines.

While economic conditions have improved, many voters lost patience with persistent budget deficits, higher unemployment and a lack of progress on new oil export pipelines.

A steady trickle of voters in one Calgary electoral district touched on some of the main issues after casting their ballots.

"I am in oil and gas and I cannot live under a socialist system anymore. It's safe to say I'm not as much voting Kenney in as voting Notley out," said geologist Ty Pfeifer, 61.

Both parties support new oil pipelines, including the Trans Mountain expansion that will triple the amount of crude reaching the Pacific Coast. They also back measures to prop up Alberta's energy industry, which struggled last year with record discounts on Canadian crude because of pipeline congestion.

"Not many people who are in the energy industry can say Alberta is in a better place than it was four years ago," said Tim Pickering, president of Auspice Capital Advisers in Calgary, which manages a Canadian crude exchange-traded fund.

This article appears in: Politics , Stocks , World Markets

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