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Looking for populism in northwest British Columbia : the inter-war and post-war years Price, Anthony Daio


The previous scholarship on British Columbia politics has mentioned but not adequately explained that province's populist culture. My paper responds to this deficiency by exploring the history of British Columbia populism. It examines the northwest (where populist culture was especially strong) as a case study of provincial politics and employs a political discourse analysis that compares language in the inter-war years with that of the post-war years. It also correlates voting and occupational statistics in polling districts in an effort to position language within a socio-economic context. The findings of this study emphasize the neighbouring northwest constituencies of Skeena and Omineca as representative of the dynamic nature of British Columbia political culture in the 1950s: in Skeena, a culture of class polarization dominated politics and led to an initial CCF provincial victory while Omineca had a culture of protest politics that supported Social Credit provincially and the CCF federally. These two differing kinds of politics (i.e. class versus populist politics) came from the same prodevelopment ethos that, while always dominating British Columbia culture, was especially significant in the post-war period. In Skeena, post-war corporate development attracted numerous unionized workers to the region and contributed to the CCF's class politics. The populism of Omineca was also a function of post-war development. It was not (like other populist traditions) connected to localistic or co-operative inclinations but in fact, was almost 1 exclusively anti-elitist. This populism integrated the anti-elite labeling of "the People" with a language that promoted the elite-controlled development of the 1950s, for the integration alleviated anxieties over that elite-control without actually threatening the existing pattern of development. The northwest's populist language was a function of a "non-populist" culture.

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