Northern Gateway pipeline foes threaten to force B.C. referendum
An environmental group says they are reaching out to community organizations across the province to help arrange a push to force a referendum if the Northern Gateway Pipeline is approved. (QMI AGENCY FILE PHOTO)
An environmental group is amassing a network of canvassers and threatening to force a referendum if Enbridge’s Northern Gateway pipeline project is approved by the federal government.
The Dogwood Initiative said it’s exploring creating an initiative petition under B.C.’s Recall and Initiative Act and launched LetBCVote.ca Saturday — the same day that Kitimat residents voted against the project in a non-binding plebiscite.
The Dogwood Initiative said it’s unclear how such a referendum would affect Northern Gateway as this is uncharted territory. But its energy and democracy director Kai Nagata said if a majority of B.C. residents voted “no” it would put intense political pressure on the federal government to change its mind, and on the BC Liberals to oppose it in some way, such as a court challenge.
“Decisions of this scale that are this contentious should be made by the people that are most affected by them,” Nagata said. “It would be really interesting to follow up on the Kitimat plebiscite with a vote where British Columbians could decide.”
In order to force a referendum, 10% of signatures are needed from every riding in the province — nearly 320,000 people in a 90-day period.
Nagata said his organization is currently talking to pipeline opponents in ridings across B.C. that could help garner signatures to force a referendum as an “insurance policy.”
The Kitimat vote has no legal bearing on whether the pipeline, from Alberta to the North Coast town, will be approved, but it drove a wedge through the community before 58.4% of voters said no to the project.
Lawn signs both for and against the project dotted Kitimat’s landscape during the lead up to the vote, as radio and newspaper ads bombarded residents.
One voter proudly proclaimed as he left the polling station at the local arena that he had voted against Northern Gateway and hoped the result would "put a stop to this craziness."
"I'm all for the environment and not the dollar," he said.
Nagata said if a referendum is held across the province, the B.C. public would likely deny the project.
“Every poll we’ve done in the last two or three years has shown that when it’s a question of increased oil tanker traffic off the coast, two-thirds of British Columbians are opposed,” Nagata said. “I am confident that British Columbians would make a decision in line with their values.”
Enbridge did not respond to a request for comment for this article.