BLOG: Lobbying Days at British Columbia’s Legislature – A First for CCL Canada

CCLers outside BC's Legislative Assembly (from left to right: Anni, Laura, Kayla, Dona, Judy, Caelen, Linn)

While working as a nurse in a remote BC First Nations community, CCLer Dona Grace-Campbell had the brainwave to plan a CCL British Columbia road trip to meet with as many Members of the Legislature (MLAs) as possible. This northern community was an appropriate place for this idea to germinate – it would have been the coastal terminus for the recently cancelled Northern Gateway pipeline.

With help from our BC colleagues, CCL Nelson-West Kootenay had already developed a one page ask for the new BC government. Our focus was on getting GHG targets legislated along with a plan to meet them, extending the carbon price to methane (especially from fracking and potential LNG development), and ending fossil fuel subsidies in BC.

CCL art fundraiser (from left to right: Judy, Linn, Mimi, and Ron)

The idea of lobbying in Victoria sparked a lot of action. We got to work requesting appointments with MLAs. In some cases this took a lot of persistence –  for one key minister (and our area MLA), it took eleven separate contacts to nail down a meeting.

To fund the trip, our group held an art equipment sale. There are lots of artists in our region, and they were excited to support climate action. Then we all had to get up to speed on BC’s carbon pricing, fossil fuel subsidies, LNG plans, methane emissions and MLA bios, but the preparation paid off.

We were supported by CCL chapters across BC.  Colleagues in Vancouver booked their own lobbying meetings with local MLAs. Debriefing on their lobbying helped us better prepare for our own meetings. We coordinated with CCL friends in the interior about complementary lobbying over the summer. We were very pleased to have two young CCLers from Vancouver Island join five of us from the Kootenays. Having three very articulate young people as part of our group got the attention of our elected officials.

CCLer Kayla explains her concerns about methane pollution as Peter Milobar (BC Liberal environment critic) pays close attention

The lobbying days (May 7-9) started with two exciting events. Sonia Furstenau, a Green MLA who had been a very active CCLer, introduced us in the House, giving a shout out to CCL. Then we watched the Minister of Environment and Climate Change Strategies announce legislation to set BC GHG targets for 2030 and 2040. Much of our first ask had been met. The next day we were able to meet him in person to discuss the measures needed to meet these targets.

BC Minister of Environment and Climate Change Strategies, George Heyman, discusses new GHG targets, as Minister Katrine Conroy (right) and CCLers Kayla and Laura (left) listen

Our small group of seven met with 16 MLAs and several staffers. This was possible because we held three caucus meetings as well as individual appointments. We had been advised by both of our local MLAs that to see as many MLAs as possible, we needed to offer a reception. So early one day we hosted a breakfast for the NDP caucus. That meeting generated some great discussion, and we ate the tasty leftovers all week.

We were able to meet with the Minister of Environment, four other Ministers, the opposition Environment Critic, and the leader of the Green Party. We saw a lot of enthusiasm across parties for real action on climate change. The discussion with the ministry responsible for oil and gas was challenging, but we made a good start, and will continue to work on pinning down the costs of BC’s fossil fuel subsidies.

CCL Vancouver hosted CCL Nelson to share lobbying stories and finally meet in person (from left to right: Marlo, Linn, Laura, Dona, Judy, Jay, and Oliver)

The best part of the trip was learning what can be accomplished when CCL chapters collaborate. During this week we also met with the Calgary chapter by Zoom to help support their efforts. As a final treat we got together with our fellow CCLers in Vancouver and shared pizza and stories. It was great to meet face to face with colleagues who we had met only through email and Zoom.

Coming home we thought back to the northern coastal community where the idea for this trip began, and that community’s struggle to fight against more oil tanker traffic.  We were also reminded of how important this work is when we narrowly avoided very lengthy detours caused by the extensive flooding in southern BC, an area where the wildfire season is just starting again.


-Blog by Judy O’Leary and Laura Sacks, co-leaders of the Nelson – West Kootenay chapter of CCL