Kai Nagata on Let BC Vote
On a personal note, it was a huge privilege to join Dogwood last March. The past ten months have been extraordinary. I want to thank staff, organizers and supporters across the country for pulling together in what turned out to be a crucial year.
The first real campaign high for me came in April when, despite Enbridge’s desperate attempts to buy a plebiscite in Kitimat, a clear majority of residents voted to reject Northern Gateway. Big Oil went up against old fashioned, door-to-door neighbourhood organizing – and Big Oil lost. It just goes to show what happens when British Columbians actually get the chance to vote on these projects.
It was disappointing to see the federal government turn around and approve Enbridge’s proposal in June – but what a response from First Nations and British Columbians. We saw an avalanche of legal challenges, and huge generosity from everyday people donating to support those lawsuits.
At the same time more than 9,500 Dogwood supporters pledged to help organize a citizens’ initiative if the provincial government approves heavy oil pipeline permits. Premier Clark got the message loud and clear. Her response to Ottawa – on both Enbridge and Kinder Morgan – was “the answer is still no”. If that changes, we’ll be ready.
Over the summer many of those new volunteers transformed into powerful grassroots organizing teams ready to hold politicians, who have forgotten what it means to represent their constituents, accountable. It’s been an honour to meet and train with so many people committed to rebuilding our democracy in B.C.
In September, constituents all over the province put the heat on their mayors and councillors during the Union of BC municipalities convention in Whistler. Thanks to their phone calls and letters, all three emergency resolutions passed with large majorities. It’s now the official position of all 190 municipalities in B.C. that:
1. The B.C. government needs a proper safety plan to deal with diluted bitumen shipments already leaving Kinder Morgan’s dock in Burnaby.
2. The federal government must restore public hearings and oral cross-examination to future pipeline studies.
3. The National Energy Board’s Kinder Morgan review is so badly damaged it no longer holds any credibility. It’s now the official position of the UBCM that British Columbia should withdraw and set up an independent review that respects First Nations, municipalities and B.C. citizens. We certainly agree.
As the fall progressed, we turned our attention to municipal elections. I’m proud to report that voter turnout increased everywhere Dogwood teams worked save Sooke, where turnout held steady at 42 per cent and we won another plebiscite on oil tanker expansion, 70-30. When the dust settled, Kinder Morgan opponents formed a majority on municipal councils all around the Salish Sea.
After the election we were able to calculate voter turnout among Dogwood’s 40,000 supporters in Vancouver: 67 percent (far above the 44 per cent average city-wide). Voter numbers could always be higher, but this election marked the reversal of a worrying trend. It also provided invaluable campaign experience for our teams. We’re conducting more fine-grained analysis of the Vancouver and Victoria races that will further hone our efforts in the federal election.
Any way you look at it, 2014 was a huge year for Dogwood. In 12 months we gained more than 100,000 new supporters through the Let BC Vote and Beyond Coal campaigns – our biggest increase ever. I’m excited to see what we can accomplish together in 2015.
Arie Ross and Celine Trojand on Organizing
This year my role shifted significantly from being a doer on the streets gathering signatures for the Beyond Coal petition to becoming a facilitator and a resource for team members. This is what organizing is all about – helping your teams develop the skills they need to make the changes they want to see in the world.
I felt more than ever that I was able to empower team members – through training, coaching and support – to be instigators of change in this province. I watched them grow and take leadership all on their own.
I’ll always remember being uninvited to a prep session ahead of a city council meeting. Marianne, our lead organizer in Burnaby, told me, “You know what, I think I can take this on without you.” An organizer seldom hears more rewarding words.
In January 2014 my mission at Dogwood was to train myself out of a job by finding, recruiting and developing leaders all across our beautiful province. I was nervous that British Columbians wouldn’t be interested in organizing this way or that they wouldn’t be willing to devote their time and effort to work with us. We started the year with two committed organizers in Victoria, allowing me to set out to achieve my goal.
One weekend in September – after adding 42,000 km onto my truck odometer and facilitating hundreds of meetings and trainings – I sat alone in my sun-filled kitchen while three separate organizer training events happened across the province: one in the Kootenays, one in Kamloops and one in Vancouver. In just nine months we had grown our collective capacity such that our organizers could run their own trainings, devise their own strategies and execute their own campaigns.
I personally felt relieved, overwhelmed with gratitude and a little bit daunted – all these people committed to a vision of our province and now we had a real responsibility to them. It meant that British Columbians were stepping up to the plate – that we would change the province forever.
Laura Benson on Beyond Coal
One of my favourite moments last year was canvassing with my seven-year-old son and other organizers from New Westminster’s Youth Initiative in matching blue Beyond Coal t-shirts. It was late August – most people were away on holidays and Port Metro Vancouver had just approved Fraser Surrey Docks’ proposal to ship U.S. thermal coal through communities who said NO loud and clear.
But we were ready for it. We knew the fight was far from over as Fraser Surrey Docks still faced major permitting hurdles at the regional government, and we knew our organizing network was resilient.
In the wake of the decision, more than five thousand new people signed Dogwood’s Beyond Coal petition. We came out stronger then ever and flexed those muscles in the fall, mobilizing thousands of voters to elect municipal politicians willing to stand up for their communities in the face of unwanted coal and oil export projects.