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End of an era as Northlands fades away

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Once, Northlands was one of the most powerful political forces in Edmonton, a group of business and community leaders with the power to cow mayors and premiers.

Local historian Tony Cashman summed up Northlands’ sway over this community in his 1979 book about the organization.

“To those inside, it seems merely the biggest of service clubs, with volunteers working their hearts out pro bono publico … From outside, however, the association is often perceived as a private club only slightly less exclusive than the Order of Canada. The Order is limited to 125 living Canadians, the association to 200 living shareholders, with loyalty to neither city nor country but to a magic kingdom called Northlands, a kingdom with enough horses to supply every Richard III stage of history, a kingdom paying neither rent nor tax, nor heed to public complaints, nor attention to letters from city council requesting information.”

As David Staples once noted, the not-for-profit organization was run by the sorts of men whose names are all over the city — Hardisty, McCauley, McKernan, McDougall, Bellamy, Gallagher, Ross. For years, being part of that inner circle was something of a hereditary gift. Shareholders once held their memberships for life, to be passed on to their sons when they died. And although that old boys clique structure gradually opened up over the last few years,........

© Edmonton Journal