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New Democratic Party House leader Nathan Cullen speaks in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa December 5, 2012.CHRIS WATTIE/Reuters

For British Columbia voters, the 2015 federal election will end up being a referendum on the Northern Gateway oil-sands pipeline, a senior New Democratic Party MP predicts.

Nathan Cullen, who has represented northern B.C.'s Skeena-Bulkley Valley riding since 2004, said he expects the pipeline will be the No. 1 or No. 2 issue on the minds of the province's voters next year.

The Harper Conservatives, who will be fighting to retain their majority government in 2015, will need to keep their 21 B.C. seats and capture as many as possible of six new ridings being added to reflect population growth.

Most B.C. riding battles during federal elections are a contest between Conservatives and the NDP, except in urban seats where the Liberals are significantly more competitive.

Mr. Cullen says NDP polling suggests a major overlap between "swing seats" in B.C. and areas where British Columbians are upset about the Northern Gateway project or Kinder Morgan's proposed expansion of its Trans Mountain pipeline.

"We're finding in Vancouver Island, Sunshine Coast, outside the Lower Mainland and into the Interior, this polls as an overarching issue," he said.