Is Enbridge setting up Harper for re-election?

Has it occurred to anyone around here that Peter Nix and his merry band of Cowichan carbon busters may be in the process of helping Stephen Harper get re-elected as prime minister?

I’m not talking just Peter, of course, because there are  myriad of mainstream environmental groups — many financed by American business interests — that are giving Harper a large helping hand in creating a major wedge issue for the next federal election over the Northern Gateway heavy oil pipeline proposal.

I don’t have any inside information, but maybe, just maybe, Harper is prepared to write off a number of Conservative seats in B.C. in order to gain support across the rest of the country.

There is no doubt there is stiff opposition to the pipeline here in this province but in the rest of the West, especially Alberta and Saskatchewan, voters believe in developing and exporting their natural resources and will see Harper as a hero fighting for jobs and a healthy economy.

Just about every opinion poll taken these days in Canada puts jobs and economic security right at the top of issues people are concerned about.  And, close reading of the polls showing opposition to the pipeline also reveal a significant portion of the people who are opposed are open to changing their minds.

The federal election is only about 16 months away and there is just about zero probability Enbridge will be even close to getting permits to begin construction on the pipeline by then. That means the coming months will be a war of words and public demonstrations trying to scare elected officials into back-tracking on the conditional approval to proceed.

The pipeline opponents are helping set up the wedge issue: Are you for jobs and economy? On one side will be Harper and the Conservatives, and on the other will be the Liberals, NDP and the Greens.  Harper can win this one with under 40% of the popular vote when the other three parties are fighting over the remaining 60%.

This is Politics 101, for gosh sakes!

The closer we get to the election the more intense we will see organized resistance to the pipeline, and the exaggerated claims of potential disaster will take off into the ozone layer.

Inevitably, voter fatigue will set in and people will start turning a deaf ear to the apoplectic predictions that mainstream media will be bombarding the public with.

Not to be forgotten in all of this: it is the older, small “c” conservative voter who actually gets out to vote. The younger crowd that occupies the twitter sphere has an abysmal record for not putting its vote where its mouth is.

It’s so, so easy to join the trendy “I Hate Harper” crowd and Tweet and Facebook nasty and clever things about the Conservatives.

It is yet another to get those in that same hip and fashionable demographic to actually take a half-hour out of their day in 16 months to go and vote.

Patrick Hrushowy is a Cowichan writer and political consultant. Email him at phrushowy@shaw.ca

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