Are the federal New Democrats going to stiff another B.C. leadership candidate?

    1 of 1 2 of 1

      Last week, a former B.C. minister of constitutional affairs declared that he's a provincial separatist.

      Rafe Mair, a long-time broadcaster and former cabinet minister in the Social Credit government of the 1970s and early 1980s, declared on his website that B.C. has been pushed around by Central Canada for more than 85 years.

      He's a sixth-generation Canadian, but the Trudeau government's support for pipelines, the Site C dam, and continued exploitation of the tar sands is too much for him.

      The prime minister has endorsed Kinder Morgan's TransMountain pipeline expansion project, which will result in 400 oil tankers per year passing through Vancouver's harbour.

      "To be called a bad Canadian because I want to protect her wildlife and their habitat and don’t want to assist uncaring capitalists and their captive governments to spread ruin here and elsewhere has finally become too much," Mair wrote.

      We all know that the Conservatives will do nothing to change the status quo on the Kinder Morgan pipeline. One of their leadership candidates, former North Vancouver MP Andrew Saxton, also wants the Enbridge Northern Gateway project revived, which would lead to oil tankers going through ecologically sensitive Douglas Channel.

      So the only real hope for those who oppose pipelines is the federal NDP.

      And tomorrow, one of its leadership candidates, Charlie Angus, will be in Vancouver drumming up support for his bid to succeed Tom Mulcair.

      The Ontario politician will do the usual round of media interviews.

      But there's a problem for British Columbians who are feeling dealt out of Confederation these days.

      Over the past 46 years, federal New Democrats have a habit of turning their backs on experienced B.C. politicians who seek the leadership.

      In 1971, long-time BC. NDP MLA Frank Howard came last in the race to succeed Tommy Douglas. The party went with Ontario's David Lewis.

      In 1975, Vancouver's Rosemary Brown, a veteran MLA, was runner-up to Ontario's Ed Broadbent in the contest to replace Lewis. 

      In 1989, former B.C. premier Dave Barrett ran a strong second to the Yukon's much less experienced Audrey McLaughlin.

      After McLaughlin faltered as leader, another experienced B.C. politician stepped forward to contest the leadership in 1995.

      But Burnaby's Svend Robinson could read the tea leaves even after winning the first round of balloting. The party preferred Nova Scotia's Alexis McDonough, so Robinson bowed out.

      In 2003 rather than running themselves, many senior B.C. NDP politicians backed the leadership candidacy of Toronto municipal politician Jack Layton.

      When the NDP leadership job became open again less than a decade later, B.C.'s Nathan Cullen ran a surprisingly strong campaign. But he came third behind Mulcair, who hails from Montreal.

      Add it up and you can see that B.C. New Democrats have been bridesmaids in five of the last six party leadership races.

      This has occurred even though B.C. has traditionally supplied the most members and a good chunk of the money to keep the party going.

      This time around, there's another B.C. New Democrat in the race.

      Peter Julian has been an MP for New Westminster and Burnaby-New Westminster since 2004. He's fluently bilingual in French and English. He has progressive credentials, having been a critic of international trade treaties and working in the past for the Council of Canadians. He's also a critic of the Kinder Morgan project.

      Angus is from Ontario and so far, he hasn't declared his unequivocal opposition to the Kinder Morgan project. There's another candidate, Guy Caron, from Quebec, and another, Niki Ashton, from Manitoba. They're all members of the federal NDP caucus.

      If history offers any lessons, the B.C. candidate could get stiffed again, judging from the federal New Democrats' track record in previous leadership races.

      And if it happens this time, given the intensity of pipeline politics in this province, it could spur more progressive British Columbians to wonder if Mair might be onto something with his separatist message, particularly if the New Democrats choose a pro-pipeline leader.

      We're already seeing a movement in California to exit the United States in the wake of Donald Trump's presidential election.

      If Angus, Caron, and Ashton don't come up with something specific to address the seething grievances among progressive British Columbians, it could just as easily get underway here.