Dogwood’s Strategy Director Will Horter reflects on this historic day
It looks like British Columbians may finally get a government ready to fight for what’s right in B.C.
Today, Christy Clark announced her intention to bring back the B.C. legislature as soon as possible in June, face a confidence vote and hand over power to the BC NDP, backed by the BC Greens.
Clark said she would not ask the Lieutenant-Governor for another election, and would be honoured to serve British Columbians as the Leader of the Opposition.
It’s a historic day in B.C.
Coincidentally, today is also the 18th anniversary of me joining Dogwood as its first-ever staff member. All day, the faces of thousands of people I’ve met doing this work have been flashing through my mind like a movie.
Thank you, for everything you’ve done to get us to this moment.
Minutes after Clark spoke, NDP leader John Horgan and Green Leader Andrew Weaver held a ceremony at the B.C. legislature.
Their governing agreement, now signed by a majority of MLAs, declares they will use all legal and political tools available to stop Kinder Morgan’s crude pipeline and oil tanker proposal — and ban corrupting Big Money from politics once and for all.
It also lays the groundwork for B.C. to transition to a more just, sustainable 21st-century economy, move forward with Indigenous reconciliation — and electoral reform. And given Andrew Weaver’s words today about reestablishing B.C. as a climate leader, I can’t see the U.S. thermal coal industry getting a free ride through our province for much longer.
Together we’ve been working toward this opportunity for years. There are many struggles still ahead. But for the first time in a long time, I feel like we have a chance to start building the province most of us want to live in — instead of just fighting the people trying to drag us backwards.
I started working at Dogwood in 1999, helping First Nations and local communities fend off multinational lumber companies that were looting their territories and pillaging peoples’ shared watersheds.
Our mission was to help people organize at a local level, so they could defend their home — while carving out space for the kind of community they wanted to raise their kids and grandkids in.
That work was basically hijacked when a company called Enbridge showed up with plans for a massive oil sands pipeline across Northern B.C., backed by Big Oil, their cheerleaders in Ottawa and the Government of China. They wanted to send supertankers brimming with diluted bitumen through the Great Bear Rainforest. It was a fight we simply couldn’t afford to lose.
After years of working behind the scenes with First Nations, environmental heroes and some of the smartest lawyers I’ve ever had the privilege to meet, in 2007 we dropped everything to launch the No Tankers campaign.
What began with a few people around kitchen tables soon morphed into showdowns in corporate boardrooms, millions of No Tanker loonie decals, thousands marching in the streets, and debates in Parliament.
While we were still fighting Enbridge in the North, Kinder Morgan showed up from Texas with its proposal for an even bigger oil tanker project in the South, opening up a two-front battle.
There were many, many nights over the course of the last 15 years where I was scared we would be overrun.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper, backed by the RCMP, the spy agencies and the CRA, launched a relentless campaign on behalf of Big Oil to grind us down and pave the way for diluted bitumen exports. It was only thanks to you that Dogwood survived.
But while we tangled with Harper, the world changed. Oil prices crashed, perhaps permanently, as demand began to plateau and renewable energy started coming online. World leaders signed the Paris Agreement. And First Nations won victory after victory in the courts, greatly enhancing their power and authority as decision-makers over the shared lands and waters we call home.
All the while, Dogwood was busy building grassroots organizing muscle in key places around the province, ensuring local people can maximize their clout at key moments — including elections.
Through the 2014 municipal elections, 2015 federal campaign and 2017 provincial election, Dogwood showed over and over that local people, working outside the party system, can help crank up voter turnout — and elect leaders who share our values and are ready to fight for our home.
But that success didn’t happen overnight.
We started investing in permanent, on-the-ground organizing work in places like Saanich North back in 2008, Courtenay-Comox in 2012 and North Vancouver-Lonsdale in 2014. Many other groups, parties and individuals contributed to the outcome of the most recent B.C. election, but I will always be proud of the Dogwood organizers who worked year in, year out to create the conditions for change.
Now’s our chance to seize the moment. With a new government we have the opportunity to lock in structural reforms that remove power from international corporations, lobbyists and party operatives — and put it back in the hands of First Nations and everyday British Columbians where it belongs.
There will be lots of sabre-rattling in the days to come from the oil industry, the Alberta government, pro-oil publications and of course Justin Trudeau’s federal Liberal administration, which is sticking to its guns on Kinder Morgan. But B.C. has faced worse before. If we stick together and focus on helping local people build grassroots power, I know we can win. Thanks for being part of it.
It’s been a wild ride. I look forward to what comes next.