March Op-ed for the Bridge River Lillooet News
Recently this paper reported the latest developments in the ongoing passenger train campaign (DoL asks communities to get on board, March 16th) and I’d like to suggest that if it’s not already being planned, it’s the perfect time to take the campaign to social media.
An online petition would transcend the distance between the communities along the passenger rail service line. It would be a great tool for revealing unknown pockets of support, gathering more energy and awareness of the issue, and magnifying the voice of the people.
In May, 2017, we’ll be voting in the next provincial election and a groundswell of public opinion would go a long way toward getting the matter on the political radar. Politicians assume there’s a multiplication factor to petitions: for instance, for every 10 people who write a letter, there’s 100 more on side who can’t/don’t/won’t write a letter. Same goes for online petitions. For every 100 people who add their names, there’s many more on side.
These days, politicians pay close attention to social media—they can’t afford not to. Ignoring social media, especially in advance of an election—can cost them dearly. Reinstating the passenger train is a specific, achievable goal which will affect numerous ridings.
A quick perusal of the Change.org website reveals that setting up a petition is pretty straightforward. The website walks you through the process step by step. Each step comes with tips for making the petition a success. For example, when choosing a title, it’s best to keep it brief and to the point, such as “Bring Back the North Vancouver to Prince George Passenger Train”.
The next step is to include the email addresses of those who can make the change happen, such as railway executives, Premier Clark, politicians at all levels of government, First Nations chiefs—basically everybody with influence and decision-making power. Having a prominent British Columbian on board to lend support would also help—anybody know the esteemed David Suzuki?
The Change.org website explains why online petitions work: “…[W]hen you specify an email address for your target, each time a supporter signs your petition, an email is automatically sent directly to that person. Governments, companies and individuals value their reputations and feel accountable to their neighbours, constituents and customers. When hundreds or even thousands of emails arrive in their inboxes, the message is very hard to ignore.”
In the 14 years since the passenger line was cancelled, there’s been a sea change in society, in large part due to the power of the internet. Democracy has evolved; people expect rail corporations and governments to be responsive and responsible. The province itself has changed. Population has grown, Prince George is now the site of the University of Northern British Columbia, the province is a prime destination for global tourism, and fossil-free modes of transportation are top priority in protecting our environment.
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