British Columbia held its provincial election yesterday, with the province’s carbon tax playing a big role–and coming out a big winner. Aside from the economy, probably no issue was more important than the ruling Liberal Party’s climate plan, passed last summer and subsequently the opposition New Democratic Party’s (NDP) centerpiece campaign issue.

Premier Gordon CampbellA carbon tax backlash failed to unseat British Columbia Premier Gordon Campbell in the province’s May 12 elections.Image courtesy Liberal Party of British ColumbiaThe Liberals won, leading in some 48 district races and giving Premier Gordon Campbell a third consecutive majority government. That should ensure the survival of the carbon tax, called one of the best in the world by our partner in wonkery Alan Durning over at Sightline.

I don’t know all the ins and outs of Canadian politics, where the traditionally progressive and environment-minded NDP came out against the tax, which was created by the typically right-of-center Liberals. But the Canadian press reads the election as an affirmation of the climate plan.

Says the Vancouver Sun: “Election victory gives Campbell economic, environmental mandate

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From the Toronto Globe and Mail:

Celebrating his victory, Mr. Campbell said the election results are a vindication for his climate-change policies, alluding to the carbon tax. “They send a message to others who may have looked at this with trepidation.

“This can be done, it should be done and it must be done for our grandchildren.”

It wasn’t an entirely green night, as the Globe and Mail noted the B.C. Green Party won only 8 percent of the vote province-wide, less than it got in the 2005 election.

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The carbon tax debate began last summer when oil prices were at a peak, which didn’t help its popularity. The NDP tried to harness that frustration, saying the tax was too hard on the economically strapped poor. That strategy earned criticism from prominent green groups like the David Suzuki Foundation.

Vancouver alt-mag the Tyee spoke to David Cubberly, a regional NDP pol who disagreed with his party’s strategy:

“These are pressing environmental issues,” he said. “The stand that we took had appeal in the short term for people who were somewhat victimized by the way that tax was done, but it was not a strategy from my perspective with enough vision to carry the day.”

Says the Carbon Tax Center, an advocacy group:

While elections are not referenda, the [news] report makes clear that the carbon tax stood front and center in the BC voting … our reading is that voters rewarded the Liberals for sticking to principle and standing up to the NDP’s withering attacks, as much as for the substance of the carbon tax itself.

I can’t think of an American statewide (governor or otherwise) election in which a climate plan became the first or second-most important issue. That’s not too say it couldn’t happen soon.

Related: Read Grist contributor Charles Komanoff’s take.

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