Welcome Ben West, Our New Executive Director

By Ben

We’re winning, and we have a long way to go.

Tanker Free BC is proud of our progress to protect the British Columbia coastline from the threat of crude oil tankers. In the past four years, we have witnessed an uprising of public and civic resistance to the plan to turn Vancouver into the tar sands shipping port. This pipeline has gone from obscurity to public enemy number one. But these oil billionaires don’t give up easily.

Today, we announce “Phase 2” of our campaign with the warm welcome of our new Executive Director, Ben West. Ben will launch an expanded campaign plan to halt all crude oil tankers on the west coast and to help us move beyond fossil fuels.

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I have known Ben West for over ten years, since he was the Chairperson of the Capilano Student Union in North Vancouver. I remember him regaling me after speaking on campus about my book on Greenpeace. He excitedly told me about how they had passed an anti war resolution he brought forward at the college board and had recently won a creative campaign to get a recycling program on campus by encouraging students to turn in un-recycled bottles to pay for tuition fees (they were tripling the fees at the time).

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Later, I knew Ben as a passionate and effective organizer for the Green Party, eventually a candidate,  Vancouver Chairperson, and provincial Deputy Leader of the BC Greens. He helped negotiate a rare cooperation agreement between progressive municipal parties in Vancouver. West brings that political experience into his government relations and community organizing work.

In 2009, when Tanker Free BC was new, unfunded, and attempting to launch a Kinder Morgan Tanker campaign in Vancouver, West was a campaigner for the Wilderness Committee. I met with West to plot a strategy to stop the oil tankers. He supported us, helped us pay the costs of publishing information, and helped us stage our first rally, a huge success in Stanley Park that launched the “No-Tanks” campaign to stop Kinder Morgan. I have known Ben as a dedicated, hard-working advocate for ecological common sense and social justice.

I am excited to welcome Ben to the job. He has had an esteemed history as a protector of BC’s environment. Ben served as Healthy Communities Campaigner at the Wilderness Committee for 5 years, organizing important campaigns related to transportation, zero-waste planning and climate change. For the last two years, he has served as Tar Sands Campaign Director at ForestEthics Advocacy, a leading voice against tankers, oil pipelines, and the causes of climate change.

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In the media, Ben has been the most effective communicator to confront climate denialist and right-wing blow-hard Ezra Levant and his allies. In public debates, West has exposed Levant and friends biases, misinformation, deceits, and oil industry funding. And he was even funny sometimes. I enjoyed listening to him in their debate in an old theatre in East Vancouver suggesting that Ezra’s spirit animal might be a duck billed platypus just to prove that evolution has a sense of humour… if in fact Ezra believed in evolution.

At the Wilderness Committee, Ben initiated the pipeline/tanker town hall meetings throughout BC to help inform and organize communities; he produced many public rallies, regularly supplied media commentary and analysis on the tanker issues, and has worked closely and respectfully with First Nations. In all this Ben is sharply focused of the need to introduce awareness of the limits to growth in the finite, over-exploited world. He  is a full hearted environmental activist working for change that will work for everyone.

Phase 2: From Tanker Free to Beyond Fossil Fuels

Under Ben’s leadership, Tanker Free BC will redouble its efforts to work directly with citizen groups and First Nations to halt the Kinder Morgan and Enbridge pipeline and tanker plans.

We are excited to be launching a Beyond Fossil Fuels campaign to help illustrate real alternatives to fossil fuels and to support policies that ensure projects are done appropriately. This means First Nations and community participation and ownership. We will actively support the BC Transit Referendum and other good green job opportunities.

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We will collaborate with progressive groups and individuals across Canada to say goodbye to Prime Minister Stephen Harper in 2015, and push the other political parties to cooperate on sound policy.

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Regardless of who wins the next election, Ben and Tanker Free BC will keep up the pressure to protect our communities, to restore ecological balance, and to help Canada rebuild its tarnished international reputation. West will guide Tanker Free BC to support grassroots organizing throughout the province, to collaborate with communities, and to build a coalition of progressives.

Our goal this year is to once and for all put an end to any plans for turning Vancouver into a shipping port for the dirtiest, most climate-wrecking oil on Earth, the tar sands bitumen.

Where we came from

Five years ago, in 2009, a few Vancouver citizens — fishermen, business leaders, and environmentalists — noticed an increase in oil tanker traffic in Burrard Inlet. Upon investigation, we learned about Kinder Morgan, the Texas oil billionaires, who had profited from the infamous Enron scandal, and had set their sights on Vancouver as the preferred shipping port for bitumen from the tar sands.

At that time, environmental groups were aware of the Enbridge pipeline into Kitimat, but no other environmental group was addressing this threat in Burrard Inlet, so we formed Tanker Free BC to confront Kinder Morgan and the oil tanker plan. Ben West, then working with the Wilderness Committee, joined forces with Tanker Free BC and helped us stage our first public rally in the fall of 2010 and many more since then.

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We have since garnered the support of the mayors and municipal councils of Vancouver, North Vancouver, West Vancouver, and Burnaby. We helped organize a hearing before the Vancouver City Council, and we exposed the misinformation and outright lies by industry and Vancouver Port representatives. We received commitments from the NDP and Green Party to support a tanker ban. We supported a Greenpeace occupation of the Kinder Morgan facilities and supported Burnaby Mountain activists, who have confronted Kinder Morgan on the ground.

We worked in support of and in partnership with the Tsleil-Waututh and Squamish First Nations, who have taken the lead in protecting Burrard Inlet from oil tankers. We encouraged the other environmental groups to join our coalition and have helped create a strong, unified movement.

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We Need your Help

We know we are winning, but we also know that the oil billionaires want their cash-cow pipelines and oil tankers. They will not give up without a battle. Tanker Free BC has been in this battle from day one, and we will see it through to the end. With Ben West now guiding our campaign, we believe we are even stronger.

The citizens of BC have spoken: We will not sacrifice our marine environment or our coastal communities to the profiteering of the oil barons. We are committed to restoring and protecting our sacred lands and waters. Please support us as we move into phase 2 for our organization. One of Ben’s first improvements makes it possible for us to accept Bitcoin, so you may donate without the banks involved, or you can make a conventional donation. Tanker Free BC is a low-overhead organization. Your contribution goes directly to protecting our region from the oil tankers.

We could really use your help now, at the start of 2015. We are a small but scrappy organization that is making a real difference. Please help us and support Ben in this important work. Together we can stop the the oil barons and empower people to make change.

Rex Weyler
Chairperson – Tanker Free BC

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