Victoria cooled to a chilly -2 C on Friday after the hottest activist-driven day of 2013 thus far: eight days of Enbridge hearings in Victoria had wrapped, rallies and flotillas occupied the harbour and Idle No More protests converged in Victoria’s Centennial Square. Dogwood, however, had one last action up its sleeve. As dusk set in, about 80 committed British Columbians took political action to the next level: they grabbed clipboards, hopped on four buses and knocked on doors — handing out information on party positions and collecting No Tankers petition signatures — in the Victoria ridings of Oak Bay-Gordon Head and Victoria-Swan Lake.
Our organizing team was wringing their hands the night before. “Will people show up to Knock the Vote? Will they feel daunted by the cold and darkness? Will they be exhausted from a day with almost too many activist options?”
Canvassing is less glamorous than protesting or getting prime media hits, but Dogwood volunteers came out on their Friday evening because they wanted to encourage all MLAs to take a stance on proposals to bring more oil tankers to B.C.’s coast.
Door knocking for a political issue can be scary for some. Many volunteers had to face their fears of rejection by strangers or overcome shyness at the door, but in under an hour, they had over 400 face-face conversations with voters.
Canvassers were of all backgrounds, political stripes and ages. From teenagers to retirees, and seasoned political organizers to new supporters wanting to learn the ropes, one new volunteer confessed, “Next time I’d like to canvass even longer.”
Tyson Kensall, Lauren Malec, and Andrew Wauthy, three 20-year-old students from Camosun College, gave up their Friday night to go door-knocking because they believe if you want to see change, you have to actively do something to achieve it.
“It’s interesting that people want change but they’re not willing to do anything about it. These days it’s junk mail, social media, or you actually go out and talk to people,” Kensall says.
Kensall and Malec did their first year of post-secondary education in Prince George and attended the very first day of Enbridge hearings in 2011. Malec says the presentation she witnessed really brought the whole issue together for her. “I learned that even if you’re pro-oil, the Enbridge proposal doesn’t make sense for British Columbians.”
And for Wauthy, his motivations were simple: “I just want my children and grandchildren to enjoy the coast as much as I have.”
Knock the Vote was just the beginning. As Jack Knox from the Victoria Times Colonist pointed out, our idea is to “gain the broadest base of support by keying in on the issue that resonates the loudest.” Dogwood will continue ramping up political pressure to encourage all MLAs to take a firm stance against new oil tanker projects.
There is another Knock the Vote event planned for Vancouver on February 2 and we hope to see as many of you there as possible. It’s events like these that bring us together, help form meaningful relationships and really have an impact.
The hard work of Dogwood volunteers cannot be overstated. Thank you to everyone who came out, braved the cold and carried the voices of the Enbridge hearing presenters into the streets.