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The fate of the Trans Mountain pipeline is less certain after Monday's election because the three parties that could prop up a Liberal minority are all opposed to more pipeline construction.

JONATHAN HAYWARD/The Canadian Press

In all the possible election outcomes, the uncertain one is what downtown Calgary had most feared.

It might take days or weeks to know what shape a Liberal minority government in Ottawa will take. But the fact the Liberals will be beholden to the NDP or even the Bloc Québécois to pass laws or survive confidence votes is a worst-case scenario for the oil and gas sector.

No matter which of those parties they turn to, the Liberals will need to at least occasionally work with a party that doesn’t want the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion to go ahead – or any other oil pipeline, for that matter. It’s not likely to make the Liberals more receptive to oil industry concerns.

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In Alberta, questions about whether pipeline projects to U.S. and global markets ever get built have been a drag on the economy and attracting investment. Now, the province might have to live with even more ambiguity about its biggest industry.

“I’ve never seen so much angst about an election outcome," says oil executive Rick Orman, who has also been involved in Alberta conservative politics since the early days of Peter Lougheed’s government.

Federal election 2019: Canada’s divisions have been thrown into sharp relief

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ELECTION RESULTS 2015 VS. 2019

2015 FEDERAL

ELECTION RESULTS

SEATS WON

184

LIB

99

CON

44

NDP

10

BLOC

1

GREEN

2019 FEDERAL

ELECTION RESULTS

As of 6:30 a.m. ET

SEATS WON

157

LIB

121

CON

32

BLOC

24

NDP

3

GREEN

1

OTHERS

ELECTION RESULTS 2015 VS. 2019

2015 FEDERAL ELECTION RESULTS

SEATS WON

184

LIB

99

CON

44

NDP

10

BLOC

1

GREEN

2019 FEDERAL ELECTION RESULTS

As of 6:30 a.m. ET

SEATS WON

157

LIB

121

CON

32

BLOC

24

NDP

3

GREEN

1

OTHERS

ELECTION RESULTS 2015 VS. 2019

SEATS WON

2015 FEDERAL ELECTION RESULTS

184

LIB

99

CON

44

NDP

10

BLOC

1

GREEN

SEATS WON

2019 FEDERAL ELECTION RESULTS

As of 6:30 a.m. ET

157

LIB

121

CON

32

BLOC

24

NDP

3

GREEN

1

OTHERS

“There’s a palpable fear about what an alliance between Justin Trudeau and [NDP Leader] Jagmeet Singh could mean for the oil and gas business."

The issues that matter in Alberta stand in contrast to much of the rest of the country. The province’s economy has been at a low ebb for five years. Canada’s oil and gas industry has seen tens of billions of dollars in divestitures by global energy players. In Alberta, voters were more likely to cast a ballot with energy policy or the economy as their driving concern.

According to ATB Financial, Alberta’s economic outlook will only improve in 2020 if a number of happy circumstances come to be, including that pipeline issues are resolved – meaning that projects actually get built.

The Liberal government did buy the Trans Mountain pipeline and expansion project. And Trans Mountain expansion plans are not subject to a vote in the House of Commons.

But there is still deep skepticism about the Liberals’ commitment to the oil sector, with many in the industry remembering Justin Trudeau’s comment: “We can’t shut down the oil sands tomorrow. We need to phase them out.”

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Mr. Singh, who didn’t visit Alberta once during the election campaign, said he is “fully opposed to Trans Mountain.”

With not a single Liberal elected in Alberta, the feeling of alienation from other parts of Canada is clear. And now there’s increased talk of some kind of separatist push, with oil executives emerging as some of the loudest voices in the fledgling movement. In recent days, PressProgress wrote about Whitecap Resources Inc. CEO Grant Fagerheim asking employees to share an anonymous letter that warns of “Alberta separation."

Now expect more pleas such as Mr. Fagerheim’s to surface. Jim Davidson, the former vice-chairman of GMP FirstEnergy, and a key fundraiser for Alberta Premier Jason Kenney, says in his circles, talk of separation is not as outlandish as it once was.

“Everybody has a breaking point," Mr. Davidson says.

Mr. Kenney has called the notion of separation “irrational.” But more and more “powerful people” in Calgary are going to disagree with him, given these election results, Mr. Davidson says.

Lower global oil prices, the movement of capital to jurisdictions where oil is easier to extract, and the world’s growing concern about the effects of climate change are reasons why investors are cutting their exposure to Alberta’s oil sands.

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But in that tougher environment, there are also some items in the realm of what Canada can actually control, such as a determination to get to global markets by tanker or pipeline.

And on those fronts, it’s unlikely anyone in Canada’s oil and gas industry will feel good about Monday’s federal election results.

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