Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Citizen-launched "Referendum" on pipelines & tankers - 05-23 update

In 1996, Western Canada Wilderness Committee (WCWC) founder Paul George launched a citizen initiative on banning bear hunting in British Columbia. Those active in BC at the time may recall lead campaigner Anthony Marr driving around the province, holding meetings with local groups, giving townhall presentations, and confronted by hoards of "sport" and trophy hunters at every turn (e.g. 65 in Port Alberni, 130 in Prince George). Paul recalls in his book [Big Trees, Not Big Stumps], "Anthony's blunt and unflappable style infuriated the opposition."

For a blow-by-blow account and newspaper coverage of one of the major confrontations, please see:

But the hotter the conflict, the hotter the media news. In all, the campaign generated some 250 local, national and international newspaper articles plus hours of radio debates and television interviews, and over 1700 volunteers. Best of all, it unified the dissociated animal advocacy and environmental groups scattered around the province, and the First Nations, into a single, coordinated fighting force that the trophy hunters found formidable. "United we stand." and "The whole is greater than the sum of its parts." could not have been more true as in this case. And in the end, though the Initiative Petition fell short in several electoral districts, the project was hailed as the greatest public outreach campaign on "sport" and trophy hunting ever, and described by the Canadian national newspaper the Globe and Mail as "the highest profile animal advocacy campaign of the year in Canada".

Subsequently, Anthony did receive facial injuries due to a fist attack, but the campaign won a 3-year Grizzly bear hunting moratorium from the NDP (New Democratic Party) government (which unfortunately was overturned by the succeeding Liberal government).

Now, in 2012, the top global issue has become global warming (Paul George published a paper on climate change as early as 1997), the top Canadian issue is the Alberta tar sands, and the top issue in the British Columbia province is the evil trio of the Enbridge Northern Gateway pipelines, expanding Kinder Morgan pipelines and intensified oil tanker traffic in BC waters.

And we are launching a similar province-wide Citizen Initiative "referendum" in British Columbia on these issues, which will ask the public to vote on:

1. whether they want or do not want the planned Enbridge pipeline to be built,
2. whether they want or do not want the existing Kinder Morgan pipeline to be expanded, and
3. whether they want intensified oil tanker traffic in southern BC waters (associated with the Kinder Morgan pipelines), and any oil tanker traffic at all in northern BC waters (associated with the Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline).

The exact wording to be determined by our legal team.

This coming summer, Anthony Marr will be going on the road again towards building an anti-pipeline and anti-tanker volunteer force 7000+ strong, this time to confront and be confronted by pipeline advocates, tanker aficionados, Enbridge and Kinder Morgan thugs, eco-carcinogen pushers and even Big Oil itself. When he comes to your city, please give him your support.

This new citizen initiative will be formally launched in the fall, but already, we have received the blessing and actual support from the highly successful 2010 Fight-HST Initiative, which did build a volunteer team over 7000 strong, some of whom have come on board.

How would these two Initiatives compare? We believe that the pipeline/tanker issue could be every bit as hot now as the HST issue was back then, if not even more so. If your group is recipient of this preliminary announcement, you are invited to join this magnificent quest at the foundational stage. We are in process of forming a Central Committee, and specialized talents are sought, including perhaps yours. Now, for example, we are in need of a volunteer web designer.

The organizers of this Initiative honour the work already done by the core groups on these issues, and welcome them into the core of this campaign. At the same time, this campaign should in no way undermine the ongoing campaigns of these core groups, but instead could act as a vehicle to assist and promote them.

We especially honour the heroic resistance by the First Nations of British Columbia, who have stood steadfast and resolute, and united, against the Enbridge Northern Gateway pipelines (2). It has set a tone of righteousness and defiance in the face of temptation and brute force. We aim to join forces with the First Nations in our common fight in defence of Mother Earth.

The rules of engagement according the Recall and Initiative Act of Elections BC are as follows:

The project, if it goes all the way, will have two main phases: the Initiative Petition phase and the Initiative Vote phase.

The purpose of the Initiative Petition is to show Elections BC that there is sufficient interest on the issues in question - as if it is not overly evident already. But rules are rules, and we have to follow them to get what we want. So we will follow them to get what we want.

The rules in British Columbia are much tougher than those in, say, Washington or Oregon or California. BC requires the certified signatures, collected by certified volunteers "canvassers", of at least 10% of the registered voters in each and every one of the 85 electoral districts in the province, without a single exception. If 84 electoral districts turned in 15%, and just one turned in 9.9%, the whole Initiative Petition fails, which was how we "failed" the last time. In contrast, Washington and Oregon required only 5%, and at that they can be collected from anywhere within the state.

Signatures-wise, while WA and OR allowed 150 days to collect their 5% signatures, BC allows only 90 days for its 10%.

WA and OR issue only one petition form applicable to the entire state, whereas in BC, each electoral district has its own distinct petition form, and only one distinct form of a certain electoral district is issued to a volunteer from that district.

Elections BC specifies that there should be just one "Proponent", singular, who has to be a BC voter, an individual, i.e. not a group or organization, whereas the "Opponents", plural, can be an alliance or coalition of any number of individuals, groups and organizations. Aside from the blatant inequality, no doubt, pro-pipeline agents, tanker tycoons and oil companies CEOs will be in the mix.

But funding-wise, both sides have the same ceiling, amount to be determined. In any case, the Opponents will be flooded with oil-money while the Proponent will be on a wing and a prayer. So, please be generous with your donation. This is our only chance.

See Anthony Marr's 3 hour flight over the tar sands in 50 minutes:

When the project is ready for launch, the Proponent will submit the application, including a draft bill towards banning more pipelines and tankers in BC, to be drawn up by the Proponent's volunteer attorney. Elections BC will have its own legal team analyse the draft bill, and, after the changes have been made to mutual satisfaction, if any, Elections BC will publish a notice in the government paper The Gazette, at which point the clock will start ticking - on the Proponent. Not until then will he/she receive the formal volunteer canvasser sign-up sheets from Elections BC. He/she will have the ensuing 60 days to formally sign up the volunteers.

This 60-day Volunteer-Canvasser Sign-Up Period will be immediately followed by the 90-day Initiative Petition Signature-Gathering Period. So, any time-adjustment means shifting an entire 5-month block.

From now until the commencement of the 60-day Volunteer-Canvasser Sign-Up Period, we will be networking for participation and potential volunteers. Anthony will also be travelling around the province holding meetings with local activists and groups, giving public presentations and holding media events towards raising public awareness on both the issues and the actions ahead.

If we make the signature quota, we will move on to the Initiative Vote phase in 2014, to prepare for which the momentum of the public outreach will be maintained throughout. With due diligence, by the time the vote occurs, the public will be extremely well informed, and anti-pipeline and anti-tanker poll numbers will dramatically rise from the current slim majority. Mind you, the Opponents will attempt to do the same, except with lies. But truth will set us free.

In regards to the timing, we have consulted many individuals and groups, as well as First Nations, and, with only two or three exceptions, "ASAP" is the common acronym. One of those opposed to the project as planned says that it should be held AFTER the provincial election on May 14, 2013, not BEFORE. No one we have talked to concurred with this view. On the contrary, we believe that this project if held BEFORE the election will raise the profile of the issue to make it an election issue, and later will hold the winning party to task and responsibility. Of course, any party holding an anti-pipeline and anti-tanker position will receive our support and benefit from our outreach effort.

Christmas is a problem, but could also be an opportunity, and the time frame has to fit accordingly. In a way, December is good, because the malls will be filled with shoppers, and our mall booths will be heavily visited, especially when the shoppers will have learned beforehand all about the issues from the media we will have generated from the months prior.

Enbridge's ruptured pipeline spilled 4 million litres of oil into Michigan's Kalamazoo River in 2010

As preliminarily set at this point, the 60 day Volunteer-Canvasser Sign-up Period will run from November 1 to December 31, and the Initiative Petition Signature-Gathering period will run from January 1 to March 31. Therefore, we in fact have more than 7 months to amass the 7000+ volunteers - if we start now.

Obviously, this project cannot succeed without the support and participation of concerned individuals and environmental groups in every electoral district across the province. This blog is to first inform, then appeal for your support and participation - basically, no participation, no project. So please, "if you feel like we do" (Peter Frampton :), contact us now and be a part of this Possible Dream from its beginning.

Please contact:

Anthony Marr receiving the prestigious Henry Spira Grassroots Activist Award at the 2010 Animal Rights National Conference ( - ~1000 participants) in Washington DC.

Anthony Marr, Founder and President
Heal Our Planet Earth (HOPE)

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