With a decision on the controversial Northern Gateway Pipeline Project expected from Ottawa this month, a group of concerned Whistlerites want British Columbians to know they still have a say in the matter.
Twenty-five residents gathered at the Whistler Museum on Wednesday, May 28, for an information session hosted by the Dogwood Initiative, a non-profit public interest group based out of Victoria.
The goal of the meeting was to glean community interest in volunteering on Dogwood's LetBCVote campaign, which aims to collect petition signatures against the project, and brainstorm ways to get the word out in Whistler.
"We're in Stage 1 of this initiative, so right now we are organizing people in different communities all over the province," said Cheryl Cameron, a Dogwood volunteer who made the trip to the resort from West Vancouver. "We're getting people to commit to talking to their neighbours and friends. We don't have to convince anyone of anything, we have the majority on our side, we just need to reach them."
The campaign's first step involves collecting signatures and contact information from B.C. residents opposed to the pipeline that will be taken to Premier Christy Clark before her decision on the outcome of the project. This first petition, while not a legal document, is "a promise for future signatures" if the pipeline is eventually approved by both federal and provincial levels of government.
"Christy Clark has been quoted many times as saying that if British Columbians do not want this project, they will not be able to push it through," Cameron said. "We don't have a lot of hope that she's going to stand by those words, but there's always a chance that if there's enough political pressure on her... she could potentially stand in the way of the project."
If Enbridge is given the green light by the B.C. government, then Dogwood is hoping a second pledge drive will trigger a provincial referendum on the project through a citizens' initiative law, the same legislation used to overturn HST in 2011. The group would require signatures from 10 per cent of registered voters in each riding in order to ask the government for a plebiscite on the project. If Elections BC grants the request, there would be a 90-day period to collect the necessary signatures.
In Whistler, residents Jane Reid, Linda McGaw and Councillor Andrée Janyk are spearheading the campaign, and discussed the most effective ways to gain support from British Columbians in the resort at Wednesday's meeting.
Attendees suggested leveraging social media, larger resort organizations, and using eye-catching visuals and high-profile events to spread the message and inspire action.
"I was really pleased with the turnout, and I think the people who showed up were really passionate and full of ideas," Reid said. "I was particularly delighted to see so many young people come out, because I believe they have more of a stake in this than those of us who are going to leave the Earth sooner."
The Whistler group is also hoping to attract additional group leaders who could organize outreach and canvassing efforts of four to six volunteers during the petition campaign. Data entry volunteers are also needed.
"I'd like to see Whistlerites get involved by using any resources they may have, whether it's art or anything else... to spread the message," said Reid.
The group's next meeting is open to all and will be held in the multi-purpose room at the Whistler Public Library on June 11 at 7:30 p.m. The meeting will start with a presentation by former Whistler surgeon and photographer Paul Wright, who will be sharing shots from his trip through the Douglas Channel, the proposed endpoint for the 1,100-kilometre pipeline.
Visit www.letbcvote.ca for more information, or to sign the pledge. A Whistler LetBCVote page has also been set up on Facebook.
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