Greens eye referendum to thwart oil pipeline

Activists ready to use citizen initiative to force province-wide vote on Trans Mountain twinning

Pipeline protesters may tear a page from the playbook of Fight HST leader Bill Vander Zalm

Pipeline protesters may tear a page from the playbook of Fight HST leader Bill Vander Zalm

Opponents of the Trans Mountain oil pipeline twinning are planning to try to force a provincial referendum on the project – much like the one that unravelled B.C.’s harmonized sales tax – if federal regulators or the Trudeau government fail to stop it.

The National Energy Board recommendation on the project comes down Thursday and critics expect a conditional rubber stamp, which would leave it awaiting a federal government decision by December and then provincial permitting.

Canvassers would then gather a mass petition as part of a citizen initiative to force a referendum under B.C.’s Recall and Initiative Act.

“It’s a unique legislative tool that none of the other provinces have and my feeling is we should use it,” said Kai Nagata, energy and democracy director for the Dogwood Initiative.

RELATED: NEB to make recommendation on pipeline expansion Thursday

He says 250,000 supporters are identified and more than 1,000 potential canvassers – far more than the Fight HST campaign had at its start.

And anti-pipeline forces would have several more months to organize ahead of a 2017 initiative.

“We think with another summer under our belts we’d be in a much stronger position to mount a successful initiative than any group has in B.C. history,” Nagata said.

“The HST referendum and the transit referendum showed the government is fine putting these big sticky policy questions to the public, and ultimately I think that’s where the decision is best made.”

Premier Christy Clark could enable a referendum at the same time as next spring’s provincial election if she wants to ride the tide of direct democracy, he suggested, or else find her party fighting against it.

But a veteran of B.C. direct democracy campaigns predicts anti-Kinder Morgan forces would be in for an immense challenge, because of the requirement that they sign up 10 per cent of the voters in all 85 ridings across the province.

“That is a wicked, wicked test for any political organizer, because what people think in Peace River versus Vancouver-Point Grey is completely different,” said Bill Tieleman, the strategist behind Fight HST. “You have to get every riding, you have to clear the table. The entire thing falls on one riding.”

The sign-up threshold would be easy to reach in Vancouver and Victoria, he suggested, and likely suburban ridings, but much less so in the rural north where more people depend on blue collar jobs in energy, mining and forestry.

“A lot of people are going to say ‘Go away and go away in a hurry before I throw you off my property bodily.'”

If organizers do get the required 10 per cent of signatures everywhere, Tieleman said, they’d then be up against the reality that the initiative legislation is largely “toothless.”

It requires the government to either introduce draft legislation penned by the proponents or else hold a provincial referendum that, if successful, would merely require the government to introduce the bill, but not necessarily pass it.

A resistant government could kill it at either stage by introduce it, briefly debate it and then let it die at either stage.

It’s too early to say what the proponent bill would say.

But Nagata indicated it could legislate against provincial government approvals of the project, or its environmental assessment certification by B.C. now required by a court decision, or it could even outlaw shipments of diluted bitumen in B.C. generally.

The only reason the HST referendum in 2011 was binding is that then-premier Gordon Campbell agreed to make it so. No forces won with 55 per cent of the vote, forcing a return to the PST.

But Tieleman said a government that ignored a successful mass petition would do so at great political risk.

“It is a validation of public sentiment,” he said. “Any time you get a half million people saying they want you to do something its kinda stupid to not pay any attention to it.”

Tieleman said a more powerful strategy for anti-pipeline campaigners might be to launch a recall campaign to topple a senior government minister.

B.C.’s recall provisions require campaigners get 40 per cent of voters in a riding to sign a recall petition.

“You can concentrate all of your effort on one riding,” Tieleman said. “If you recall a cabinet minister that sends a hell of a message to government and says ‘We’ll do it again if you don’t do what we want.'”

Just Posted

Processed sewage is still being deposited at the Hartland landfill rather than sent as biosolids to a Richmond cement plant. (Black Press Media file photo)
Biosolids at Hartland still being placed on landfill in Saanich

Richmond cement plant up and running, but CRD end product not suitable for purpose

An SUV sits where it crashed through the front window of the 2:18 Run store in Fairfield Plaza, after the driver appeared to lose control on Monday afternoon. (Photo by Phil Nicholls)
Driver crashes through front window of Victoria running store in Fairfield

Phil Nicholls of 2:18 Run said crash sounded like an earthquake at first

Seismic upgrading and expansion work at Victoria High School is about a year behind due to pandemic-related factors, the Greater Victoria School District announced. (Photo by Cole Descoteau)
Victoria High School seismic work, expansion a year behind schedule

Greater Victoria School District now targeting September 2023 for reopening of historic school

The BC Ferries website went down for a short while Monday morning following a provincial announcement that recreational travel between health authorities can resume Tuesday. (Black Press Media file photo)
BC Ferries’ website crashes following provincial reopening announcement

Recreational travel between health regions to resume as of Tuesday

Elk Lake Drive area resident Michael Blayney protests a proposed multi-building development for his Royal Oak neighbourhood, outside Saanich municipal hall on Monday (June 14). (Photo by Megan Atkins-Baker/News Staff)
Demonstrators protest 11-storey development on Elk Lake Drive in Saanich

Saanich locals gather at municipal hall to protest development, public hearing goes Tuesday

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau participates in a plenary session at the G7 Summit in Carbis Bay, England on Friday June 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada donating 13M surplus COVID-19 vaccine doses to poor countries

Trudeau says the government will pay for 87 million shots to be distributed to poor countries

Kelowna-Lake Country MLA Norm Letnick, assistant deputy speaker at the B.C. legislature, presides over committee discussions. The legislature is completing its delayed spring session this week, with most MLAs participating by video conference. (Hansard TV)
B.C.’s daily COVID-19 infections dip below 100 over weekend

Only 68 new cases recorded Monday, four additional deaths

Neighbours fight a small late-night bush fire with garden hoses and shovels in Cinnabar Valley on June 5. They couldn’t get help from local fire services because the fire was located in an area under B.C. Wildfire Services jurisdiction. (Photo courtesy Muriel Wells)
Neighbours on edge of Nanaimo city limits left to put out bush fire themselves

Cinnabar Valley residents tackle fire with hoses and buckets for two and a half hours

Darren Campbell’s truck (pictured) was stolen when he stopped to check on a car in a ditch on Cowichan Bay Road on Monday morning. (Facebook photo)
Vancouver Island Good Samaritan’s truck stolen in nasty trick

‘Try to be a Good Samaritan and my $20,000 truck gets stolen right under my nose’

The Kamloops Indian Residential School is photographed using a drone in Kamloops, B.C., Monday, June, 14, 2021. The remains of 215 children were discovered buried near the former school earlier this month. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Communities grapple with what to do with former residential and day schools

Some tear them down as a tool to help healing, others repurpose them as tools for moving forward

Creative handmade signs abound at the June 13 Tofino rally for old growth trees. (Nora O’Malley photo)
VIDEO: Tofino stands in solidarity for Fairy Creek Blockades

Over 150 supporters attend rally hosted by Friends of Clayoquot Sound

FILE – Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry talks about B.C.’s plan to restart the province during a press conference at Legislature in Victoria, Tuesday, May 25, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
B.C. watching U.K.’s COVID struggles but don’t think province will see similar pitfalls

Studies show that one dose of vaccine is only 33 per cent effective in preventing B.1.617.2 spread

RCMP Const. Shelby Patton is shown in this undated handout photo. RCMP say that Patton was hit by an allegedly stolen truck that he had pulled over on Saturday morning in Wolseley, east of Regina. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, RCMP
Pair charged in Saskatchewan Mountie’s death make first court appearance

Const. Shelby Patton was hit by an allegedly stolen truck that he had pulled over Saturday morning

David and Collet Stephan leave for a break during an appeal hearing in Calgary on Thursday, March 9, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Todd Korol
Appeal Court rejects stay for Alberta couple facing third trial in son’s death

Pair accused in their earlier trials of not seeking medical attention for their son sooner

Most Read