They held community hearings in 16 different towns and cities across British Columbia. They listened to presentations from everyday British Columbians for hour after hour, day after day. And when they wrapped up the community hearings in Vancouver on Friday, the three-person National Energy Board panel had heard from 1,159 speakers opposed to Enbridge’s proposal to bring an oil pipeline and tankers to B.C.’s coast and from just two in favour.

The presenters had to register 15 months ago and schedule three months before their 10-minute slots rolled around. For their efforts, they got to partake in the largest public hearings in National Energy Board history.

The people who spoke in opposition to the project ran the gamut, from a retired commander of the Royal Canadian Navy and the former CEO of BC Hydro to an Anglican reverend and several coast-guard trained oil spill experts. (Read more of their testimony.) There were high school students, university professors, people who work B.C.’s tourism industry, realtors and a former riding president for the Conservative Party of Canada.

Who were those two people who spoke in favour? One was former Liberal MLA for Bulkley Valley-Stikine, Dennis McKay, and the other was former mayor of Port Hardy Russ Helberg.

All roads lead back to politics

Many speakers noted that since Prime Minister Stephen Harper changed the law last year so he can overrule the joint review panel, they worried they were wasting their breath. Indeed, at this point, the joint review panel will not be making the final decision.

This is going to be a political decision whether we like it or not – now it’s just a matter of whether we allow Ottawa to make this decision for us or if we elect a B.C. government on May 14 that will stand up for our coast.

With that in mind, we crunched some numbers recently, taking a close look at the provincial ridings that were won by less than 10 per cent in the last election. We discovered (happily) that there are currently more No Tankers supporters than the margin of victory living in 16 of 24 of those ridings.

The big question is: are British Columbians going to get out and vote on this issue in May’s provincial election? Of course, we think the answer is yes.

To demonstrate what the No Tankers movement is capable of we partnered with Forest Ethics on Saturday to host an event called Knock the Vote. Nearly 100 volunteers turned out for a strategic canvass blitz in the riding of Vancouver-Fairview, which was won by just 1,063 votes in the 2009 provincial election.

More than 3,200 voters in Vancouver-Fairview had already signed the No Tankers petition. On Saturday, volunteers had face-to-face conversations with hundreds more voters about their candidates’ positions and collected an additional 543 signatures on the petition.

Events like these will be happening all over the province in the run-up to the provincial election and have already happened twice in Campbell River, once in Burnaby and once in Victoria – where Times Colonist columnist Jack Knox described Knock the Vote as being carried out with “a military precision that would have made Rommel weak in the lederhosen.”

If you’d like to be involved on the front lines in the run-up to the election, check out our Find Leaders journey which provides all the tools and resources you need to pressure your MLA in the most effective ways possible.

Together, we’re going to make protecting B.C.’s coast from the threat of oil spills one of the top voting issues in May’s election.