Don't go there
I golfed with some good friends this weekend. Sitting around the fire at my Dad's cottage afterwards, with port and rusty nails in everyone's hands, and cigars smouldering between our fingers, I heard something very interesting.
One of the fellows had popped in from the Vancouver area. He's a business owner and not unfriendly to the Conservatives, although he's not particularly political. He shared his thoughts on the softwood lumber debate. Granted it's only one man's view, but you'll have to trust me that he's quite a shrewd observer. Not only are his in-laws loggers, but deals with the public every day, and his livelihood depends in large part upon reading their emotional state.
In his opinion, the dynamic surrounding the proposed softwood lumber deal in BC is changing from concern over the deal itself, to concern that Ottawa is going to put it to the West Coast yet again.
Think about that for a moment.
If he's right, and the major issue in BC has shifted from the policy itself to the fact that nobody in the Conservative government seems to be even listening to the concerns about it, then Harper and Emerson are on the verge of opening up a whole different can of worms. Regionalism will complicate this to no end, and the poisonous fallout from a province disregarded will seep into other federal-provincial issues for years to come. True or not, BC sees this as a BC issue.
Whether or not the softwood lumber deal with the U.S. is the best we can do or it isn't, the Conservative PR strategy isn't working. This risks becoming a touchstone of Western Alienation.
Remember, nobody even talks about the underlying issues surrounding the NEP anymore. It's simply cited as Central Canada sticking it to Alberta. It has become an emotional issue more than a policy one, a still-sore point of reference in the provincial psyche.
The federal government needs to rethink its handling of this file, before the softwood lumber deal becomes BC's NEP.