Northern bloc ready to flex its muscle

Something may be brewing in northern B.C. that could force election fortune tellers to go back to their Tarot cards

Something may be brewing in northern B.C. on the outer fringes of our political consciousness that could force election fortune tellers to go back to their Tarot cards for another peak ahead to 2013.

The conventional wisdom about our near-term political destiny seems irrefutable. It has the New Democrats, at 50 per cent in the polls, mopping up in the May vote with the DOA Liberals counting their leftovers on two hands.

But volatile times like these are fertile breeding grounds for political schemers and my sources in the North suggest a movement is afoot.

Nominally, it would be called the “Northern Independent Party.” Its base would be the 10 northern ridings, a massive geographical block bordered on the north by Stikine and Peace River North, on the west by North Coast, on the east by Prince George-Valemount, and on the south by Cariboo-Chilcotin. These ridings represent almost two-thirds of B.C.’s land mass and get about one-sixth of its attention.

The idea is to establish a northern bloc that would have enough clout to force the governing party to pay the appropriate level of homage to this wealth-generating region that historically receives the least attention from Victoria.

The conditions are certainly ripe for such a movement. The North, the birthplace of entrepreneurial spirit, is no longer the domain of the free enterprisers. In the most recent Angus Reid poll, the NDP has a 63 per cent grip on the North while the Liberals and the Conservatives have just 16 and 17 per cent respectively.

One of the incubators for an independent northern voice may be the proposed Enbridge northern pipeline. The issue has defined the North for the past six months and will continue to dominate the landscape through May.

Current polling by Abacus Data indicates that 54 per cent of Interior voters are strongly or somewhat opposed to the project. The way the Liberals and the NDP have been playing handball with the contentious issue simply reinforces northern alienation.

Upstart political movements seem to be in vogue these days. The grassroots Wildrose Party was poised to win the recent Alberta election until a few of its wacko candidates started sharing their ideas with reporters just hours before the polls opened.

A textbook example emerged in the Quebec election this week. The Coalition Avenir Québec — the Coalition for the Future of Quebec — was not even a registered party this time last year, and yet the centre-right coalition proved to be a game-changing influence.

In B.C., the resurging Conservatives under John Cummins were poised to become a natural new voice for disaffected northern free enterprisers fed up with Liberal lip service. But the dream has fizzled and Cummins has proved to be just another cranky old retired MP in search of a second coming.

Internal wrangling on his board of directors is bubbling into the news ahead of the party’s AGM this month and frustrated Conservatives are already whispering about a coup.

If there is to be independent political action in the North, it will most likely be home grown. There is a unique esprit de corps in this vast region itching to find political expression. There is absolutely no question that the North needs a new deal. The only question is whether or not its frustration has reached critical mass. M

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