Only initiative to stop pipeline is to defeat Conservatives

By Bill Tieleman, News, Views, and Attitude – 24 hours

Despite British Columbia environmentalists, First Nations and others gearing up to launch a citizens initiative petition to fight the Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline, it’s only votes, not signatures that can stop it.

And with the federal Conservative government due to announce its decision by today and expected to approve Enbridge with conditions, these groups have to ask themselves – is the juice worth the squeeze?

That’s because while the province’s legislation is unique in Canada by allowing voters to petition the provincial government to take action, the Initiative law is completely toothless.

Even if successful against enormous odds, the initiative can be ignored without government being forced to hold a province-wide vote – despite popular misconceptions.

I know – because I was Fight HST’s strategist in the successful 2010 Initiative process, led by ex-premier Bill Vander Zalm.

Our victory depended on Campbell’s multiple miscalculations, including deciding to hold a binding referendum – not simply because voters flocked to sign the first and only citizens initiative to pass since initiatives began in 1994.

And that’s where the Dogwood Initiative – the group’s name, not campaign – runs into trouble.

The legislation lets government choose what to do if an initiative reaches the incredibly difficult threshold of gaining the signatures of 10% of registered voters in every one of B.C.’s 85 ridings in just 90 days.

Government can chose to hold a non-binding initiative referendum – or simply introduce the bill that the petition proposes into the B.C. legislature but not even debate it, let alone pass it.

So environmentalists could spend months and many dollars organizing only to either fail to get enough signatures in every riding – or even if they do – then be ignored by the Legislature. At best it gains substantial publicity.

But an Enbridge initiative failure could embolden both the B.C. and federal government to see it as a big win for big oil and ignore further opposition.

That’s one heck of a lot of squeeze for no juice.

Only a federal election defeat of the Conservatives can stop Enbridge.

Bill Tieleman is a former NDP strategist. Read more at Email: Twitter: @BillTieleman



Regardless of whether you support or oppose it, do you think a successful Citizens Initiative petition could stop the Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline?

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