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How Northern Gateway pipeline approval will put BC Conservative seats on endangered species list

A big group of Conservative MPs in British Columbia must be nervous just about now, knowing the federal Cabinet could be readying to sign off on the controversial Northern Gateway pipeline. If the announcement, expected as early as next week — goes Enbridge’s way — it could seal some of their fates. That’s because a Bloomberg-Nanos survey released this […]

A big group of Conservative MPs in British Columbia must be nervous just about now, knowing the federal Cabinet could be readying to sign off on the controversial Northern Gateway pipeline.

If the announcement, expected as early as next week — goes Enbridge’s way — it could seal some of their fates.

That’s because a Bloomberg-Nanos survey released this week shows nearly half of British Columbians are unlikely to consider voting for Conservatives in the next election if Northern Gateway is approved. Only 11% said they’d be more likely to consider their local Conservative candidate.

“Approval of the pipeline by the Harper government is likely to have a collateral negative impact on support for the Conservatives in BC,” the survey concludes, giving a significant boost to the Enbridge 21campaign that targets BC’s 21 Conservative MPs. a gang of 21 MPs

And things get worse for many Conservative MPs when you dig behind those numbers.

The survey finds nearly one in five (18.6%) respondents who voted Conservative in 2011 would be less likely to vote for them again if Northern Gateway is greenlighted. That’s one in five of the Conservative’sown supporters.

Contrast that number with just 23.8% of Conservative supporters who would be “more likely” to support their local CPC candidate and it gives a pretty good indication that there’s little enthusiasm for a project that will see pipelines cut through environmentally sensitive areas and bring heavy oil tankers into difficult to navigate inland channels. Vocal opposition includes First Nations communities, residents living in the proposed supertanker port at Kitimat, and, most recently, 300 prominent scientists.

Forget other grievances voters in BC might have against the Harper Conservatives — backlash to Northern Gateway approval could be devastating in a number of Conservative ridings, where votes are decided by small or even moderate margins. (The Conservatives won 21 of British Columbia’s 36 seats in 2011; the NDP picked up all but three of the rest.)

For example, when 2011 election results are compared with this poll data (applied evenly across the province), it looks like the Conservatives would be driven off Vancouver Island, losing both of their seats — one held by soon-to-be-retired backbencher James Lunney and another held by the controversial former Aboriginal Affairs Minister John Duncan.

Here’s a rundown of seats most likely to land on the Conservative endangered species list (where the margin of victory either evaporates or shrinks significantly) if Northern Gateway is approved:

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