B.C. activists look to direct democracy law to block Kinder Morgan pipeline

Dogwood Initiative gathers signatures to try to trigger a province-wide referendum, similar to 2010 B.C. effort to get rid of HST.

Activists are vowing to use B.C.’s direct democracy law to try to block the Kinder Morgan pipeline expansion from being built.

The Dogwood Initiative is gathering support to prepare for Premier Christy Clark’s likely approval of the $6.8-billion project, after the Trudeau government gave the green light on Tuesday.

Clark said Wednesday all but two of the five conditions to twin the Trans Mountain pipeline have been met, so she is “very close” to giving her support. Those two conditions are ensuring the federal government’s new Ocean Protection Plan will provide world-class marine spill prevention and response, and that B.C. gets its “fair share” of the project benefits and jobs. The province is also still waiting on the outcome of its environmental assessment.

With that remaining work expected to be completed by this spring, the Dogwood Initiative is hosting events on Saturday to recruit volunteers who will canvass their neighbourhoods for enough support to trigger a province-wide referendum on the pipeline.

“If politicians and Big Oil think they can push reckless tanker projects through our province despite First Nations and public opposition, we’ll launch a citizens’ initiative. British Columbians deserve a vote,” its website reads.

A unique process in B.C. called the Citizens’ Initiative allows a registered voter to propose a new provincial law or changes to an existing law. The voter must collect signatures from 10 per cent of the registered voters in each of B.C.’s electoral districts in a short time period. The matter then goes to the legislature, and one of the possible outcomes from that is a province-wide referendum.

“If Clark cuts a deal that betrays the majority of voters in B.C., we have the power to put this to a vote – just like when Gordon Campbell misled citizens about the HST,” the website reads.

A Citizens Initiative petition against the harmonized sales tax led by Bill Vander Zalm got enough signatures to pass and that led then-Premier Campbell to put the issue to a provincial referendum, where the HST was defeated.

Kinder Morgan’s $6.8-billion project would result in a seven-fold increase in tankers running through Vancouver harbour, carrying much more diluted bitumen than in the past.

Environmental groups and First Nations voiced their outage at the Trudeau cabinet’s approval of Kinder Morgan earlier this week. Some of his own MPs in the Vancouver area said they were disappointed in the decision.

– with files from Jeff Nagel