During the election campaign, Prime Minister Stephen Harper said Canada cannot meet its Kyoto objectives and he wants to sit down with the provinces to discuss a "made in Canada" solution. Unlike the other three major political parties, there was no explicit mention of support for wind power development in the Conservative platform.
Still, says Canadian Wind Energy Association president Robert Hornung, it is not likely the federal wind power production incentive (WPPI) program, which received a C$920 million funding boost in the previous Liberal government's 2005 budget, will be under threat.
"The bigger issue is, how might future expansion to a wind power production incentive or to other mechanisms to support wind energy fit in? I would say the main impact of the election is that it probably delays, to some extent, the opportunity to secure additional action in terms of wind energy, because there will be an education process. If anything does happen it will be a product of collaboration and coalitions. And that will take time to make happen," he says. CanWEA has already recommended the federal government invest another C$1.17 billion to more than double WPPI's target to 8500 MW by 2014.
CanWEA, says Hornung, does not see support for wind development as "inexorably linked" to the climate change issue. "I think wind energy has a lot of benefits that are consistent with a lot of Conservative priorities. Cleaning the air, for example, or economic development. The Conservative electoral base is very much a rural one and that is where a lot of wind development would be taking place," he says.
There is a concern, however, about the future of emissions trading markets, which the wind industry sees as key to its long term economic viability. "I think the Conservative stance on Kyoto does pose a real threat to that. But that's not something that has been providing any real significant benefit to the wind energy industry at this point."
The dynamic of the next parliament will also be a factor in what the Conservatives are able to accomplish. The party won 124 out of 308 seats, meaning it will require the support of other parties on major initiatives.
"It's very unclear at this point how this parliament will work. We already know that within the opposition parties this is an issue in which they have taken a stand," says Hornung. "At the end of the day, with the give and take of a minority parliament, if the opposition parties are able to get three things out of the Conservatives, would support for wind energy be one on the three?"