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.'”

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Sandy Carmichael is a Goldstream Gazette 2021 Local Hero as Seniors’ Champion. (Don Denton/Black Press Media)
Worker bee returns to volunteer: Sandy Carmichael a fixture at Langford Royal Canadian Legion

Sandy Carmichael is the 2021 recipient of the Seniors’ Champion Award

West Shore Parks and Recreation facilities face a challenging future in terms of funding, due to reduced operations throughout the pandemic. (Black Press Media file photo)
West Shore Parks and Recreation faces challenging future

West Shore Parks and Recreation Society submits 2021 budget request to owner municipalities

The It’s Critical campaign has raised $5.89 million towards its $7 million goal to expand critical care capacity at Victoria’s Royal Jubilee Hospital. (Black Press Media file photo)
Critical care improvements make the list with Greater Victoria shoppers

Save-On-Foods pledges $300,000 to Victoria Hospitals Foundation’s It’s Critical campaign

Approximately 100 people gathered in Centennial Square Saturday afternoon to listen to speakers decry COVID-19 restrictions. (Jane Skrypnek/News Staff)
PHOTOS: Victoria residents protest masks, COVID-19 restrictions

Approximately 100 people gathered in Centennial Square Saturday afternoon

Saskatoon resident liajah Pidskalny poses with his bike near the University of Victoria after putting on thousands of kilometres to raise awareness of the overdose and mental health crisis. (Courtesy Iliajah Pidskalny)
Saskatoon cyclist winds up mental health and overdose awareness ride in Victoria

Iliajah Pidskalny braves prairie winter conditions to get word out to communities

Abbotsford’s Kris Collins turned to TikTok out of boredom when the provincial COVID-19 lockdown began in March 2020. She now has over 23 million followers on the video app. Photo: Submitted
Internet famous: Abbotsford’s Kris Collins is a TikTok comedy queen

Collins has found surprise stardom alone with a phone

A Vancouver restaurant owner was found guilty of violating B.C.’s Human Rights Code by discriminating against customers on the basis of their race. (Pixabay)
Vancouver restaurant owner ordered to pay $4,000 to customers after racist remark

Referring to patrons as ‘you Arabs’ constitutes discrimination under B.C.’s Human Rights Code, ruling deems

Nanaimo children’s author and illustrator Lindsay Ford’s latest book is ‘Science Girl.’ (Photo courtesy Lindsay Ford)
B.C. children’s writer encourages girls to pursue the sciences in new book

Lindsay Ford is holding a virtual launch for latest book, ‘Science Girl’

Pig races at the 145th annual Chilliwack Fair on Aug. 12, 2017. Monday, March 1, 2021 is Pig Day. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of Feb. 28 to March 6

Pig Day, Canadian Bacon Day and Grammar Day are all coming up this week

Staff from the Marine Mammal Rescue Centre, passersby, RCMP and Nanaimo Fire Rescue carried a sick 300-kilogram steller sea lion up the steep bluff at Invermere Beach in north Nanaimo in an attempt to save the animal’s life Thursday. (Photo courtesy Marine Mammal Rescue Centre)
300-kilogram sea lion muscled up from B.C. beach in rescue attempt

Animal dies despite efforts of Nanaimo marine mammal rescue team, emergency personnel and bystanders

Doctors and counsellors warn of an increase in panic attacks, anxiety, depression and suicide ideas between ages 10 to 14, in Campbell River. ( Black Press file photo)
Extended pandemic feeding the anxieties of B.C.’s youth

Parents not sure what to do, urged to reach out for help

Gina Adams as she works on her latest piece titled ‘Undying Love’. (Submitted photo)
‘Toothless’ the kitty inspires B.C. wood carver to break out the chainsaw

Inspired by plight of a toothless cat, Gina Adams offers proceeds from her artwork to help animals

B.C. Finance Minister Selina Robinson presents bill to delay B.C.’s budget as late as April 30, and allow further spending before that, B.C. legislature, Dec. 8, 2020. (Hansard TV)
How big is B.C.’s COVID-19 deficit? We’ll find out April 20

More borrowing expected as pandemic enters second year

The first of 11 Dash 8 Q400 aircraft's have arrived in Abbotsford. Conair Group Inc. will soon transform them into firefighting airtankers. (Submitted)
Abbotsford’s Conair begins airtanker transformation

Aerial firefighting company creating Q400AT airtanker in advance of local forest fire season

Most Read