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Workers use heavy machinery in the tailings pond at the Syncrude oil sands facility near Fort McMurray, Alta.MARK RALSTON

For the oil patch, the Conservative power shift means getting on with an ambitious agenda to bring Canadian energy to the world.

Now that Stephen Harper's Conservatives have secured a majority government, oil and gas companies are set to plow ahead with expansion plans without fear of unexpected legislation or a new tax regime pinching their balance sheets or crippling their long-term vision.

It's the benefit of a business-friendly Prime Minister with a home base in Calgary, Canada's energy capital.

Mr. Harper has long defended Canada's oil sector, calling the country an "energy superpower," and he wasted no time sending a message to the energy industry that the newly fortified government has its back.

"There were a lot of policies being quoted by the other parties, whether it's on West Coast transportation or the energy sector, that simply did not reflect the needs and concerns of this part of the country," Mr. Harper declared in Calgary Tuesday morning, after clinching victory the night before.

"I actually argued during the campaign that the policies of our opponents were actually quite dangerous to the country as a whole, but obviously some specific policies seemed to be almost targeted to do damage to Western Canada," he said. The statements refer partly to a Liberal and NDP effort to ban tanker traffic off the West Coast, which would disrupt Enbridge Inc.'s Gateway pipeline project that aims to ship oil sands oil to new markets in Asia.

Mr. Harper has long been quick to point out the United States imports more oil from Canada than anywhere else, and that the oil sands are the second-largest oil reserves in the world behind Saudi Arabia, a stockpile that can offer the U.S. a stable, long-term supply of crude.

But the oil patch wants something more - for Mr. Harper to turn up the volume against the many critics of the oil sands and its environmental impact, now that he has full control in Ottawa.

"This gives him a good platform to be able to step up on the international stage and demonstrate things like: We do have strong standards in place; or we will set stronger standards in place; we will cut through red tape and give that confidence to the international community," said Greg Stringham, vice-president of marketing and oil sands at the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, which represents the energy industry.

Mr. Stringham believes Mr. Harper tried to make these arguments before, but was distracted by the short-term politicking that surrounds minority governments, rather than focusing on making long-term policies, which will now be easier as he controls the House of Commons.

Rick George, chief executive at Suncor Energy Inc., Canada's largest oil sands outfit and a constant target for green groups, said that the government's policies, while bringing stability and giving companies confidence, have to reflect environmental concerns.

"This is a resource and an industry that's very important to the future of this country, and with that we have a responsibility to make sure we reduce our environmental footprint," he told reporters after his company's annual general meeting Tuesday in Calgary. "So let's just hope we get very good common sense policies."

The Pembina Institute, an environmental think tank, believes some of the Harper government's policies could help make the energy industry greener. "If the Conservatives want to move forward on a national energy strategy, which every player in the [oil]patch thinks that they should do, they now have a strong mandate to do so," executive director Ed Whittingham. A national energy strategy, he said, gives government the chance to address big-picture challenges, rather than coming up with piecemeal policy one jurisdiction at a time.

But on the flip side, the Conservatives were the only major party that didn't incorporate carbon pricing into their election platform, Mr. Whittingham noted. A number of large energy outfits, including Royal Dutch Shell PLC, a major oil sands player, have called for a national carbon policy, which would give governments the chance to reduce carbon emissions via a market mechanism.

Though the Conservatives now hold power, leaders in energy industry argue the new official Opposition - the oil and gas sector's biggest critic - can not be ignored. Eric Newell, a past chief executive at Syncrude Canada, current director at Nexen Inc., and head of the Climate Change and Emissions Management Corp., said the NDP's concerns must be considered when forming new policies.

"The country is polarized and Mr. Harper and [Jack]Layton have to figure out how to work together," he said.

With files from Nathan VanderKlippe and Reuters