VICTORIA, B.C. - The B.C. election campaign starts Tuesday with the Liberals and New Democrats tossing political curve balls at voters.

B.C. voters can be excused for being a bit confused with the direction of the issues being thrown out by the Liberals and New Democrats as they prepare to start the campaign for the May 12 vote.

Premier Gordon Campbell's big-business, pro-development Liberals enter the campaign promoting themselves as friends of the environment and champions of aboriginal rights.

The New Democrats, traditional allies of big government and the environmental movement, begin by pledging to cut the carbon tax and wasteful government spending.

Environmental groups in the province kicked off their own campaign Monday by shredding the platform of the party they once could have relied on for support.

The David Suzuki Foundation, the Pembina Institute and ForestEthics held a joint news conference Monday - a day before the official start of the 28-day campaign - to call on the New Democrats to reverse the position on the carbon tax.

The environmental groups say thousands of jobs will be lost and British Columbia will lose its position as an environmental leader if the tax is dropped.

"Choose the leadership path not the laggard path," said ForestEthics spokeswoman Merran Smith.

Axing the tax could be popular in the northern parts of the province, where many had complained it hit them unfairly hard because people there must drive longer distances to get anywhere and must pay more to heat their homes in the colder climate.

NDP Leader Carole James responded Monday that her party will stick to its plan, even if it means losing support from environmental groups.

"We disagree with the environmental movement," James said simply. "We believe a bad tax is a bad tax."

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