Category Archives: LNG

BC LNG: Boon or Boondoggle?LNG (Liquified Natural Gas) is one of biggest energy stories to hit Western Canada. It is promoted as a clean bridge fuel that will create thousands of jobs and turn British Columbia into a trillion-dollar global energy leader. The idea is to cool natural gas into liquid, so it can be shipped to higher-price markets in Asia. But is it really all it’s cracked up to be? And what are the trade-offs and impacts associated with LNG and the fracked gas that would feed it?

The Common Sense Canadian is your go-to source for in-depth analysis of the potential benefits and risks of this “game-changing” industry.

Northern First Nations band together to block Petronas' LNG plans

Large group of First Nations, scientists, green groups calls on Trudeau to reject Petronas LNG project

Northern First Nations band together to block Petronas' LNG plans
Gitxsan leaders of Camp Madii Lii stand behind the Lax Kw’aalams Nation at Lelu Island (submitted)

A letter written by Lax Kw’alaams Hereditary Chief Yahaan (Donnie Wesley), calling on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to reject Petronas’ controversial LNG proposal near Prince Rupert, has gained a long list of unlikely, high-profile supporters.

The signatories include over 70 leaders of First Nations, environmental organizations, businesses, unions, university groups and faith groups, plus several scientists and academics such as David Suzuki and Wade Davis. Amongst the notable First Nations leaders are Garry Reece, Chief Councillor of the Lax Kw’alaams Band Council, Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, President of the Union of BC Indian Chiefs, Chief Na’Moks (John Ridsdale) of the Office of the Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chiefs, and Fort Nelson First Nation Chief Liz Logan.

Federal decision expected soon

The plea comes in advance of a decision on the project’s federal environmental permits, expected in early 2016 or sooner – following several delays. By contrast, the BC government has already enthusiastically signed off on the project, but without the support of local First Nations, who rejected the government and proponent’s offer of some $1.15 billion in economic benefits and a significant grant of crown land.

Since then, hereditary leaders of Lax Kw’alaams and their supporters have been occupying Lelu Island in defiance of test drilling and exploratory work by contractors for the proponent. This has led to increasing tensions between First Nations and the Port Authority, which claims jurisdiction over the test work.

“The people of Lax Kw’alaams have unanimously voted ‘No’ against the project because of devastation it would cause to Flora Banks,” said Chief Yahaan on the occupation.”

[quote]It’s a habitat for juvenile migrating salmon, crabs, eulachon, halibut…We are here and we’re telling the people of Canada and British Columbia that we’re not giving up Flora Banks.[/quote]

“Lelu Island is part of the Yahaan’s tribal territory of the Gitwilgyoots,” according to a media release on today’s letter.

Watershed moment for LNG opposition

The letter could signal a watershed moment in the growing movement against LNG development and the fracking that would supply it with fuel. “This is the first time that such widespread and unprecedented agreement has been reached in BC on LNG”, said Greg Horne of the Skeena Watershed Conservation Coalition. “From every corner of the province, we are all in agreement that Lelu Island and Flora Banks is the worst possible spot on the north coast to site an LNG facility”.

Whereas projects like the Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline and Kinder Morgan’s TransMountain project have seen strong, clear resistance from early on – especially amongst First Nations – LNG has proven a more complex issue. The combination of economic benefits offered to communities and the perception that LNG is somehow less dangerous environmentally than Tar Sands bitumen has meant that traditional oil and gas opponents were slower to take on the Clark government’s LNG vision. But that has changed over the past year, as more groups have connected the dots between fracking in northeast BC and the LNG industry; while the enormous climate impacts of the industry have begun to become clear.

Meanwhile, risks to marine habitat and wild salmon from LNG terminals have sparked a backlash amongst coastal nations and communities along the proposed pipeline routes, where several resistance camps have emerged in recent years.

“Of all the thousands of miles of coastline, they chose the one location most critical for Skeena salmon”, said Des Nobels, Northern Outreach Coordinator, T. Buck Suzuki Environmental Foundation. A separate letter from the United Fisherman and Allied Workers Union (UFAWU) and environmental groups emphasizes the same point to the new PM:

[quote]We urge you to reject this project outright because mitigation will not be possible. The importance of this specific site is long standing common knowledge in the scientific community.[/quote]

Even if it receives its federal permits, Petronas faces un uphill battle to get its project built – including potential court challenges from First Nations and a rapidly cooling global market for LNG – which led a leading Malaysian business publication to predict the project would be put on hold for a number of years.

Rafe- Woodfibre LNG opposition isn't NIMBYism - it's based on real fear

Rafe: Woodfibre LNG opposition isn’t NIMBYism – it’s based on real fear

Rafe- Woodfibre LNG opposition isn't NIMBYism - it's based on real fear
Photo: Flickr/KsideB

If you don’t think that the approval of an LNG plant in Squamish – Woodfibre LNG – was a raw political decision, you not only believe in the tooth fairy, you must be the tooth fairy herself.

The alleged “environmental assessment” by the Province, was a farce – as has been the federal process thus far. The government solemnly avers that everything is up in the air until there’s a full blown investigation with evidence taken on all matters of concern and a judicious decision rendered strictly on all the facts.

This, and I hate to disillusion you, is utter crap. I’ve attended too many environmental assessments and – forgive me for repeating myself – I would rather have a root canal without an anesthetic than go to another. They’re about as fair as a Soviet Show Trial. The sole reason for the “process” is to make a government decision appear fair and of course it does the very opposite.

I’m not a spokesman for any of the groups, in the Howe Sound area or elsewhere, who are opposing this project. The principal organization is My Sea To Sky of which I am a keen supporter but not a member, much less a spokesman. It’s generally conceded that the principal spokesman is the eminent Dr. Eoin Finn, whom I support and admire immensely. I’m dedicated to the fight and I certainly offer my two bits worth from time to time but what I say has no sanction, official or otherwise.

Having said that I can issue this warning to Premier Clark:

[quote]If you and your tiresome toady, Rich Coleman, think that this will be a slam dunk, think again. I might say that I’ve warned you of this in these pages several times. Remember what happened to John Weston, until recently our MP, who steadfastly ignored his constituents on this issue and was humiliated on October 19.[/quote]

Tanker risks ignored

Your so-called environmental assessment spent little if any time on one of the most critical issues, namely the width of Howe Sound and it’s suitability for LNG tanker traffic. In this regard, there has been, even for matters of LNG, an unbelievable amount of bullshit.

Much of it has been peddled by Captain Stephen Brown, President of the Chamber of Shipping of British Columbia, scarcely an independent observer. His mantra, to cover all possible questions on LNG tanker transport, is that they have a perfect record for the last 50 years, 75,000 voyages without incident.

Captain Brown misses a rather important qualification to these statistics – he’s only counting voyages on the high seas. He studiously ignores problems inshore, in fjords, harbours, rivers and coastal waters. The last time I looked, Howe Sound is a long way from those high seas the good skipper speaks of.

If you want a more accurate picture, subscribe, for free, to gCaptain published daily on the goings-on in the shipping industry. It reports about one serious tanker accident every two or three weeks. If you take the time to consult the archives you will know that Captain Brown should have his mouth washed out with soap.

One interesting place to look is the Bospherus, between Turkey and Greece, leading into the Black Sea, which is by no means unlike Howe Sound and is a veritable hotspot for tankers bumping into things.

It’s not my position that LNG tankers are unsafe for they’re remarkably well constructed vessels and, from what I read, about as safe as a tanker can be. That being said, they still run into things, as often as not because of human error, and when they do, they pose a very substantial danger – especially to narrow fjords like the Bospherus and certainly Howe Sound if this madness isn’t stopped.

LNG accidents aren’t small

This is the second misleading part, to put it charitably, of Captain Brown’s statements. It’s by no means only how many accidents there will be that’s important but how serious they are when they happen.

That this is a matter of huge concern and community action was recently outlined in these pages by My Sea To Sky co-founder Tracey Saxby:

[quote]So far community opposition has been loud and clear, with Powell River, Lions Bay, Gibsons, West Vancouver, Bowen Island, and Squamish all signaling strong opposition to Woodfibre LNG through recent resolutions. My Sea to Sky has partnered with more than 20 other organizations that oppose this project, and our volunteers have hit the streets to gather over 4,400 signatures (and counting) to the Howe Sound Declaration, stating opposition to the project.

There is no social license for this project in Howe Sound. A rubber stamp isn’t going to change that.[/quote]

And those concerns are very real, not mere NIMBYism. If we’re to have some 500 tankers going out of Vancouver harbour every year and the odds of an accident are, let’s say, 1 in a 1,000 – hell, say 1 in 10,000 – it’s only a matter of time, and not much time at that, before there is a serious accident. Make that 1 in 100,000 then look me in the eye and say you still want to bring your family to Lions Bay to live.

That’s what troubles those who are concerned about LNG traffic in Howe Sound and waterways like the Fraser River or Saanich Inlet.

The issue is not if a serious accident will occur, but only when.

Pushing the limit

Courtesy of Eoin Finn
Courtesy of Eoin Finn

The standard width within which LNG tankers should travel, recommended by world-leading Sandia Laboratories in New Mexico – now the law in the United States (not known for overly strict environmental rules) – sets the danger zone around LNG tankers at 3,500 to 4,200 metres.

Howe Sound is so narrow that its shores are well within danger zone. Looking at a Chart prepared by Dr Eoin Finn and Cmdr. Roger Sweeny, RCN (Ret), based upon proper standards demonstrates beyond question that Gambier, Keats, Bowen, the Sea to Sky Highway, Lions Bay, Horseshoe Bay and West Vancouver would be at serious risk. Proposed LNG Tanker traffic even runs afoul of the standards of the industry’s international trade organization, the Society of International Gas Tanker and Terminal Operators (SIGTTO).

If this point was seriously considered by the pseudo-environmental assessment process, you wouldn’t know it from their report.

Woodfibre’s owner doesn’t inspire confidence

Woodfibre LNG- Shady PR firms, lobby violations, fraudulent owner - Is this the kind of business BC wants to welcome
WFLNG owner Sukanto Tanoto (right)

As Ms. Saxby says, there’s no social license – indeed Liberal MLA, Jordan Sturdy, has not only acted contrary to the wishes of the vast majority of his constituents, he’s pooh-poohed their concerns that Woodfibre LNG is run by the unsavoury, to say the least, Sukanto Tanoto.

Perhaps that’s because Woodfibre LNG, owned by Tanoto, paid big dollars to kiss Sturdy’s political backside with a fundraiser last February at the ultra-posh Capilano Golf Club. The media, as well as Eoin Finn, were refused entry. The entire cost for the event, including big bucks handed over to Sturdy, was paid for by Tanoto, whose massive-tax evasion and rainforest destruction record across the Pacific has put his business reputation into serious question.

“We should not, in my mind, be doing business with people like that,” opines Squamish Mayor Patricia Heintzman.

[quote]It’s difficult for the community to have trust that this person will not cut corners or be disrespectful to our environment.[/quote]

As Ms. Saxby and Mayor Heintzman wonder, is this the sort of business we want in our community in exchange for a minuscule number of construction jobs for local citizens and maybe 100 low-paying permanent jobs (if that)?

Knowing the price of everything, the value of nothing

Photo: Future of Howe Sound Society
Photo: Future of Howe Sound Society

Premier Clark had best be ready, for Howe Sound is sacred territory to far more than just those of us who live on its shores. She can expect that amongst our allies at the protests to come will be people from all over the province who recognize what Howe Sound really means.

The similarity between the Clark government and the late, unlamented Harper government is uncanny. Neither have the faintest idea about any value that doesn’t have a $ attached. The fact that there might be safety issues, spiritual issues, and plain issues of beauty would never occur to Christy Clark or her “henchpersons” if there’s a buck to be made.

In the words of Oscar Wilde, they know “the price of everything, and the value of nothing.”

I say no more except that it would be wise for our politicians to reconsider this matter.

For it’s not just that the people are angry, they also happen to be right.

Woodfibre LNG - Public comment period begins for Squamish project

Woodfibre LNG may have govt’s rubber stamp, but not social license

Woodfibre LNG - Public comment period begins for Squamish project
Citizens line the Sea to Sky Highway to protest Woodfibre LNG (My Sea to Sky)

Op-ed by Tracey Saxby

It really comes as no surprise that the Provincial Government has rubber stamped the Environmental Assessment (EA) for Woodfibre LNG. This is one of their pet projects, and the BC Liberals’ election promise was to develop an LNG industry for BC, whatever the cost. They have continued to push this pipedream, despite plummeting gas prices and increasing pressure from LNG companies to slash taxes and weaken regulations in an attempt to make the industry viable.

This approval simply highlights a conflict of interest: how can the public have faith in the integrity of the BC Environmental Assessment process when the Ministers approving these projects (one of which is Rich Coleman, the Minister of Natural Gas Development) also have a mandate to develop LNG export facilities? Quite simply, we don’t. 

An article published in BC Business earlier this year notes:

[quote]…our environmental assessment process is, according to critics, the weakest and most confusing it has been in decades—thanks to abrupt changes in our environmental laws and deep budget cuts to government regulatory agencies.[/quote]

This has not been an open and transparent process, and meaningful community engagement has been limited by short windows for public input, incomplete studies provided by the proponents, and poor advertising of open house events. Thanks to My Sea to Sky’s efforts to get people involved, the public comment period for Woodfibre LNG in March generated a record number of public comments. Has this overwhelming community opposition been adequately scrutinized by the Ministers granting this EA approval, or are the BC Liberals ignoring public input, as well as deleting emails?

The good news is that while Woodfibre LNG has their rubber stamped approval from the Province, they still need approval from the Federal government. Our new Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, has acknowledged that “even though [it is] governments that grant permits, ultimately it’s only communities that grant permission.”

So far community opposition has been loud and clear, with Powell River, Lions Bay, Gibsons, West Vancouver, Bowen Island, and Squamish all signaling strong opposition to Woodfibre LNG through recent resolutions. My Sea to Sky has partnered with more than 20 other organizations that oppose this project, and our volunteers have hit the streets to gather over 4,400 signatures (and counting) to the Howe Sound Declaration, stating opposition to the project.

There is no social license for this project in Howe Sound. A rubber stamp isn’t going to change that.

Tracey Saxby is the co-founder of My Sea to Sky

Rafe- Canada's biggest newspaper chain has sold its soul to oil and gas

Rafe: Canada’s biggest newspaper chain sold its soul to oil and gas


Rafe- Canada's biggest newspaper chain has sold its soul to oil and gas

Well, fellow friends of freedom of the press, what now?

Agreements between Postmedia – the country’s largest newspaper chain – and the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP), plus an equally disgraceful deal between the company’s Vancouver Province and the LNG industry have permanently stained the organization’s journalistic credibility.

Postmedia is broke and then some. That, however, has never been an excuse for losing your moral compass. I can’t imagine Postmedia forgiving an embezzler because he was broke, yet they’re happy to abdicate journalistic standards and morality because they’re unable to pay dividends.

We all know about the obsequious and idiotic editorials the Postmedia press did while falling all over Stephen Harper and the Conservatives in the recent election. Added to this list is the Toronto Globe and Mail which, while not directly linked to the fossil fuel industry so far as I know, is obviously wed forever to the right wing and it’s acolytes.

Recent Vancouver Sun editorial headline
Recent Vancouver Sun editorial headline

Newspapers have long taken an editorial position in favour of one party or another, loftily insisting that it was the “view of the newspaper” as if it had been revealed by the Delphic Oracle, not dictated directly from the publisher. This, however, is the first time in my memory that newspapers and newspaper chains have formally locked themselves into agreements with one side of a highly contentious issue. Their loved one, the fossil fuel industry, is condemned by every reputable scientist as harmful to the environment and a serious contributor to climate change. We know we can wean ourselves off fossil fuels but that effort must be supported by government and all reasonable people, including responsible news outlets.

When you read your newspaper, apart from the obituaries, you can’t believe a damned thing. It’s worse – you don’t know what’s not printed and should have been.

Once a newspaper is committed to a controversial view, it’s like a clock that strikes 13 – it can never be trusted again. Even the mildest “puff” pieces may well contain propaganda. Unquestionably, Postmedia coverage of controversial issues relating to fossil fuels and the industry can never be accepted in light of their commitment to CAPP.

What about those things not covered?

For example, where in the mainstream media have you read any serious questioning – let alone criticism – of “fracking”? Or the impact of extraction of the natural gas on water, air and the climate?

Where you seen any criticism of LNG tankers in the far too narrow Howe Sound and Fraser River?

Woodfibre LNG- Shady PR firms, lobby violations, fraudulent owner - Is this the kind of business BC wants to welcome
Sukanto Tanoto (right), the man behind the proposed Woodfibre LNG

Where have you seen any criticism of, or questions about Sukanto Tanoto, the crooked tax-avoiding, forest-destroying, owner of  Woodfibre LNG?

Where have you seen any careful evaluation of the government’s secretive deal with Petronas? And where the government’s “due diligence” was?

Where have you seen the even mildest criticism of premier Clark, her inarticulate toady, Rich Coleman, and their gross exaggerations and bungling negotiations on LNG?

When was the last time you read a columnist in any of these papers be even mildly critical of either government on energy issues?

We’ve all seen the recent resignation of Andrew Coyne, as editor of the National Post after they spiked his election column for the venal sin of criticizing Harper and the Tories. For some reason, Coyne decided to be half an honourable man and kept his column.

Television can hardly be relied upon.

Global TV is owned by Shaw Media. Due to their connection, they and Corus Entertainment are considered to be “related” by the CRTC. Corus, also controlled by the Shaw family, owns radio station CKNW which, under them, abandoned its longstanding reputation for holding the “establishment’s” feet to the fire in favour of good manners unto servility.

CTV is a division of Bell Media (BCE), Canada’s premier multimedia company, with leading assets in television, radio, and digital, and owns 15% of the Toronto Globe and Mail – which has already shown its loving attachment to the Conservative Party. Now, to add to the media incest in Canada, Bell Media (BCE) is in partnership with, guess who – well done, you got it – Corus Entertainment in HBO and other deals.

Not only is there no media outlet in Canada independent of the “establishment” – there is not even an opposition newspaper worth noting. In Great Britain, at least there have long been papers that supported a favourite political party and independents. In the United States, there are Democratic and Republican papers and some independents. This carries on into TV.

Postmedia Headquarters (Ryerson Journalism)
Postmedia Headquarters (Ryerson Journalism)

My first conclusion is that every Canadian must understand this situation. The news is going to come strained through the establishment sieve and we must all know that and take the credibility of all the mainstream media as one would a declaration of innocence by a child with sticky fingers and jam all over his face.

Secondly, we must watch with care how the media treats the new government. Don’t get me wrong – they must have their feet held to the fire every bit as much as any other government and we at The Common Sense Canadian will do that.

What concerns me is will the mainstream press look at Trudeau through the Conservative party prism?

On the other hand, Liberal coffers are full of oil money – will this mean that the media will see them as safer than the NDP and go easy on them?

Thirdly, it’s going to take more work by Canadians to get a fair assessment of public affairs. Reliable blogs must be found and relayed to others. There are plenty of them with all manner of points of view from far-right to far-left and everything in between.

There remain a number of features for which newspapers will have some value, like the weather, the comics, special features and advertising of things we’re interested in. Whether or not that’s worth the price they ask is highly questionable.

What we do know is that their reliability for fair, independent news coverage is worth two times the square root of sweet Fanny Adams.


While one First Nation sues to stop LNG, another embraces it

Hereditary chiefs of the Luutkudziiwus House of the Gitxsan Nation opposing LNG pipelines at their Madii Lii Camp
Hereditary chiefs of the Luutkudziiwus House of the Gitxsan Nation at their Madii Lii Camp

While the country speeds toward a high-stakes federal election, things are heating up on the provincial front with the LNG file in BC. As Premier Clark hosts a third international LNG conference in Vancouver, sticking to her “optimistic” outlook despite a cooling global market, several First Nations continue to make waves with the issue – but in very different ways.

Yesterday, representatives of the 600-member Luutkudziiwus house of the Gitxsan Nation announced their intention to file a legal challenge of the province’s permits for the Prince Rupert Gas Transmission pipeline (PRGT), which would supply Petronas’ proposed LNG terminal on Lelu Island in the Skeena Estuary.

“We are taking the government to court over the lack of consultation, inadequate baseline information presented, a weak and subjective impact assessment, and the current cumulative effects from past development,”says Luutkudziiwus spokesperson Richard Wright.

[quote]People from all over northern BC are now outraged about the $40 billion Petronas LNG project. It is unbelievable that they claim they consulted with us.[/quote]

The case would seem to be bolstered by the recent stripping of Nexen’s water licence for fracking activities by a Fort Nelson First Nation legal challenge, on similar grounds. The same nation won a similar battle at the BC Supreme Court in August over plans by Canadian Silica Industries to mine sand for fracking in the region – cancelling a go-ahead the company had already received from the province.

Squamish Nation backs Woodfibre LNG

Squamish Chief Ian Campbell (Flickr/Leadnow)
Squamish Chief Ian Campbell (Flickr/Leadnow)

Meanwhile, the Squamish Nation’s elected council has voted to grant conditional approval to the proposed Woodfibre LNG plant in Howe Sound. The decision comes after the band announced in August 25 conditions it’s imposing on the project, some of which WFLNG has since consented too.

But local grassroots opposition group My Sea to Sky has strong reservations about this recent move. “While we completely respect the Squamish First Nation’s decision on how to protect and manage their traditional territory, there is still much work to be done by way of actually witnessing the proponent’s ability to meet the conditions during facility construction and operational stage,” the group noted in a statement released this morning.

“At the moment there is growing concern regarding the alternative FortisBC pipeline route and gas-turbine compressor station positioned behind Crumpit Woods, Raven’s Plateau and the Valleycliffe area. Residents are newly becoming aware of this new route situated even closer to their homes and schools. My Sea to Sky is aligned with the Squamish Nation Council with respect to the ardent concern that Woodfibre adopt a less-destructive cooling system to manage the proposed facility.”

The Squamish Nation shares this concern regarding the project’s cooling system, as Chief Ian Campbell acknoledges, “…we need to have mechanisms and assurances that the technology is the best available. The next step is the technical analysts to prove that the system won’t have an adverse impact.”

Campbell, has offered assurances of his members’ commitment to environmental sustainability, adding, “Bottom line: If our lands and waters are not protected, liquefied natural gas plants or other industrial operations simply won’t get built. Period.”

This may be welcome news to My Sea to Sky, but the group remains deeply concerned about local and broader risks from the project.

Thinking beyond Howe Sound

Fracking operations in northeast BC depend on large volumes of water (Damien Gillis)
BC’s LNG program would be fuelled by a large increase in fracking operation in northeast BC (Damien Gillis)

“Given the grave impacts of further developing the LNG industry in British Columbia – increased fracking in Treaty 8 territory in northeast BC, water contamination, climate change-causing emissions, and the risks associated with tanker traffic for the coast – we feel we have a collective responsibility to think beyond our backyards when it comes to evaluating the Woodfibre LNG project,” the group warns. “There are upstream communities deeply affected by our decisions regarding supporting an experimental LNG facility in Howe Sound.”

“Moreover, the social license for the Woodfibre LNG facility is still lacking from the Sea to Sky corridor as well as the municipalities around the sound who have all called for a ban on tankers in Howe Sound.” A long list of local and provincial municipal bodies have already passed motions for a ban on LNG tankers in Howe Sound, including Britannia Beach, Bowen Island, West Vancouver, Lions Bay, Gibsons, the Islands Trust and the Union of BC Municipalities.

Howe Sound resident, Common Sense Canadian co-founder and outspoken WFLNG critic Rafe Mair concurs with this sentiment:

[quote]This is a long way from over. People throughout Howe Sound are going to doing everything imaginable to prevent Woodfibre from going ahead.[/quote]

Chief Campbell made a similar acknowledgement, cautioning this vote does not constitute full approval. “This is one step in a multistage process, so it’s definitely not a green light for the entire project,” said Campbell. “It allows us to issue an environmental certificate that would be legally binding. The Woodfibre LNG facility must abide by all the conditions that the Squamish Nation has imposed.”

Free, Prior and Informed Consent

Meanwhile, in Gitxsan territory in the Skeena Valley, leaders of the Luutkudziiwus House – who are maintaining a camp in the path of proposed pipelines – are prepared to do whatever it takes to assert their rights and keep LNG pipelines off their lands and waters. “Our Madii Lii territory is not to be played with by the province of BC in their LNG game. Clark’s LNG dream is a nightmare for us,” says Hereditary Chief Luutkudziiwus (Charlie Wright). “While she tries to maintain a shiny picture of LNG in their conference this week, the reality is that First Nations are being bulldozed, and we have had enough.”

“We want the BC government to respect our constitutionally protected Aboriginal rights with a true reconciliation process that honors healthy families and increases community health and education,”adds Luutkudziiwus spokesperson Pansy Wright.

“Development within our traditional territories must have our Free, Prior and Informed Consent and stop tearing apart our communities.”

Future of LNG remains unclear

While Clark picked up support for her LNG vision from the Squamish Nation this week, the Gitxsan may have found a new ally in the global LNG market. One of Malaysia’s leading business publications recently revealed that Petronas is likely to put its project on hold until as late as 2024 due to plummeting Asian prices for the resource, which have fallen well below the break-even point for BC-made LNG.

Either way, the future of BC’s key economic vision remains far from clear.


Rafe: LNG shill, Province blogger practices shabby journalism

Screen capture of Regulator Watch video, in which host Brent Stafford (left) attacks Dr. Eoin Finn (right)
Screen capture of Regulator Watch video, in which host Brent Stafford (left) attacks Dr. Eoin Finn (right)

I am pleased to see that Brent Stafford, shill for the Postmedia Group and Resource Works and their unqualified support for Woodfibre LNG, has chosen to respond in the social media to articles of mine written in this publication.

Screen capture of @BrentStafford tweet defending his interview practices
Screen capture of @BrentStafford defending his interview practices

Stafford defends the notion that you can interview with one interviewer then have that interview voiced over by different interviewer and published as if the result was fair, ethical and accurate. He could not have made my point better than by producing the interview by a male and then showing it re-done by the very attractive Meena Mann, whom the subject, Dr. Michael Hightower – a globally-recognized expert on LNG tanker safety – had never heard of.

It must be noted that the viewer is not told about this switch and has every reason to believe that the interview was done in person throughout by Ms. Mann.

This isn’t doctoring an interview?

Stafford believes that this is good journalism – I am in no position to argue the moral precepts of modern journalism but say that it is a highly deceptive practice and done deliberately. I invite you to listen to both interviews and consider the inflection in the voice from Ms.Mann and her body language, including nodding, smiles and so on.

This is not what Dr. Hightower heard when he was being interviewed and lest you think that is minor, consider how much the inflection in the voice and the body language matters in normal social intercourse. Anyone who has pled cases in the courts knows how many ways you can ask a question and how many ways you can look, gesticulate, and visually work with words as you do, and the difference that can make even though the words are precisely the same.

If this were not so, why wouldn’t Resource Works and Mr. Stafford use the male interviewer, his face, and his gesticulations? Without seeing the guy, I think we can assume that he is not as nice looking as Ms. Mann nor as charming and pleasant to watch. Surely that’s done in order to make the interview itself more convincing and watchable.

It was this practice I condemned by article here and do so again now. It is a shabby deceptive practice intended to deceive and, rather than alleviate that conclusion, Stafford emphasizes and enforces it.

Courtesy of Eoin Finn
Courtesy of Eoin Finn

What is interesting are the recommended distances that LNG tankers must maintain from shore according to Dr. Hightower and his Sandia Laboratories. The on-the-water research of Commander Roger Sweeny, RCN, Ret. and the academic work of Dr. Eoin Finn is anathema to Woodfibre LNG and its shady owners.

There’s a reason that Stafford and his clients and partners, Resource Works and Postmedia, avoid this question like it was Ebola. The Sandia recommendations, as you might imagine, are most unhelpful to Woodfibre LNG. In fact, they have spent the time since this was exposed in The Common Sense Canadian, to remain studiously silent on the subject.

Speaking of Dr. Finn – a Howe Sound resident, retired KPMG partner and chemistry PhD – Stafford did a number on him that made me feel ill. It looked like an interview but was anything but. Stafford displayed Dr. Finn making a number of statements elsewhere at different times as if he knew he was in a debate with Captain Stephen Brown, spokesman for the LNG tanker industry. Captain Brown then gave his lengthy industry-biased replies. Needless to say, it would have spoiled everything if Stafford had given Dr. Finn a chance to respond.

In response to a series of tweets Stafford has levelled at me, I have raised this pseudo-interview but in spite my urging that he come clean, he won’t deal with this.

I have repeatedly asked him to explain how a newspaper chain Postmedia (which publishes his video blog) can take an official partnership position on one side of a very public issue when basic journalism ethics require that they remain neutral? How can they pretend to present fair coverage of the LNG and the Woodfibre application issue to the public when they are financially involved supporting them? Stafford refuses to answer.

I’ve asked him about his playacting as a journalist in his gig with the Province and he replies that since he explains what he’s doing its quite OK to fake evenhanded journalism.

I allege no lawbreaking – only misleading make-believe journalism. I can only imagine what Jack Webster, the toughest but always fair journalist, would say if he were alive.

Let me end this part of my response to Stafford by saying that any legitimate enterprise, which is telling the truth about what it intends to do and the consequences, doesn’t need to resort to deceptive practices and glib pseudo journalism to make their case. Furthermore, legitimate enterprises are prepared to meet the questions and criticisms raised and to do so honestly and forthrightly.

My recommendation is that if you want to hear the results of Woodfibre LNG’s propaganda machine, totally unaffected by the truth, that the place to go is Resource Works, the Postmedia Press and Mr. Stafford.

All others – stay tuned.


How Postmedia climbed in bed with the LNG lobby and a PR flack

Screen capture of Brent Stafford and his Regulator Watch program from The Province website
Screen capture of Brent Stafford and his Regulator Watch program from The Province website

It was early last September, as near as I can remember.
While strolling down the lane in tipsy pride.

Not a word did I utter as I lay there in the gutter
When this pig walked up and laid down by my side.

Not a soul were we disturbing, as we lay there by the curbing,
When this high tone lady stopped and I heard her say,

“You can tell someone who boozes, by the company he chooses”
And the pig got up and slowly walked away.  (Traditional)

Today’s column is a riddle: Who is the pig? (Remember that the pig, according to Churchill, was the noblest of all animals.)

First prize is the Common Sense Canadian Political Perspicacity Prize.

The cast of characters

First is an outfit called Resource Works, which, as readers will know, is a business-oriented shill for LNG in general but specifically in Squamish.

Second is Postmedia, the organization which wholly owns and controls, amongst others, the Vancouver Sun, The Vancouver Province, and National Post. It is no longer a journalistic observer of the LNG issue but a full partner with Resource Works in advocating for LNG in general and Woodfibre LNG specifically!

Thirdly is a newcomer, Brent Strafford, who, with considerable license, bills himself as a journalist and has joined Postmedia posing as just that (The Province refers to him as a B.C.-based journalist since 1988 in a story introducing Stafford to their readers).

In fact, he is a consultant to big business and bills himself as:

[quote]…having extensive experience creating and executing innovative marketing campaigns and joint-promotions. He’s worked with over 50 tier-one brands on strategies and tactical programs which leverage the power of entertainment properties and brand assets to build consumer engagement and drive sales. He has created national & global joint-marketing campaigns and intellectual property agreements with companies such as Procter & Gamble, Coca-Cola, Wal*Mart, Electronic Arts, New Line Cinema, Disney, NASCAR, Super Bowl, Hasbro, GRAMMYS and Lucas Films to name a few.

Stafford negotiated & executed the largest brand partnership for Disney’s “The Incredibles”​ bringing the studio 11 brands from P&G. He negotiated & executed a 4 country Pringles partnership & promotion with “The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King” and he delivered to P&G the Star Wars franchise for a 16 country theatricStafford negotiated & executed the largest brand partnership for Disney’s “The Incredibles”​ bringing the studio 11 brands from P&G. 

Stafford is also a nationally recognized expert on video games, delivering a $2MM anchor brand partnership to Comcast for the launch of the G4Tech-TV cable channel.[/quote]

Lastly, there’s the poor sap left with only his newspaper to inform him; as the wag said “the game may be crooked but it’s the only game in town”.

The issue

Readers will recall my reporting on a video published by Resource Works, hosted by a young lady, which turned out to be a fraud. It was in fact hosted by a man, the answers given by scientist Dr. Michael Hightower twisted and distorted by Resource Works and the entire matter was exposed by Dr. Eoin Finn – a Howe Sound resident and retired KPMG partner with a PhD in chemistry.

The exposure

It came to my attention that the falsified video was done by the said Brent Strafford. I was referred to his new website – –  and there I saw him at work, quoting Dr. Finn out of context and then having those remarks commented upon by Captain Stephen Brown, who, far from being an independent observer, is president of the Chamber of Shipping of British Columbia, which represents “vessel owners, operators, shipping agencies, ports and a wide range of key stakeholders engaged in international and domestic trade through Canada’s Asia-Pacific Gateway.”

The Story

Brent Stafford is the face of a new online video series and website, Regulator Watch and has joined Postmedia – with his own video blog page on the Province’s website one presumes as an independent commentator. There is nothing there differentiating this as paid or “advertorial” content – in fact, Regulator Watch appears right below the masthead, next to other news categories and series like “Federal Election 2015” and “Pets and Animals”. 

A screen capture of the Province's online masthead - with RegulatorWatch highlighted
A screen capture of the Province’s online masthead – with Regulator Watch highlighted

Did Postmedia hire Stafford? Or is this an in-kind barter – free content for the Province in exchange for the paper’s journalistic credibility and a bigger platform for Stafford and his Resource Works client to spread the gospel of LNG? These are questions which it would only be fair for Postmedia to answer with a full disclosure its Regulator Watch page. To date, the only thing remotely approaching that was an introductory post that noted “This video was produced independently by Regulator Watch…It is being hosted on for commercial purposes.” What exactly does that mean? And why is this disclosure nowhere to be found on the blog page today, which, incidentally, appears under the “news” section of the website?

What is Regulator Watch all about?

A quick look at will show that it’s a Reaganesque program dedicated to bashing any and all forms of regulation, especially of the extraction and transportation of resources. It is described as “a founder-funded start up with limited support from industry and other stakeholders impacted by the regulatory process in Canada.” Just who are these silent backers? Stafford doesn’t say – neither did the Province when introducing him.

Given this man’s record, including tampering with a video to benefit a client; given his highly unprofessional “interview” slagging the absent Dr. Eoin Finn; given Postmedia’s journalistic obligations to serve the public, why the hell would the Province bring Stafford into their fold?

Is it not fair in the extreme to look at Postmedia’s becoming a formal shill for Woodfibre LNG and the crook that owns it and the sleazy record of Brent Strafford and remember what your parents taught you – you’re judged by the company you keep?

We start the stroll down the lane

We now have a combo then with the new partnership of Postmedia and Brent Stafford, both of whom are financially partnered with and indistinguishable from International Business and might just as well be arms of the Conservative Party of Canada.

There is nothing illegal about this at all. What is wrong and so clearly wrong is that they pass themselves off as giving independent advice to readers who are led to believe that they are picking up journalism not propaganda. It is this horrific deception that is being played upon the Canadian public and thus far they are blissfully ignorant of what is happening!

This is understandable. Would one expect a Canadian, brought up in a society professing free-speech and journalistic integrity, to think for one second that their daily newspaper would be taking one side of an issue and not only propagandizing that side, but doing so in the subtlest of ways? Indeed to actually be a financial partner on that side?

Canadians are beginning to cotton onto what’s happening. Postmedia is in terminal trouble and so it ought to be.

To see what was once one of the noblest of professions descend into the obloquy of a yellow journalism is excruciatingly painful to watch. To see the traditions of the  London Times, the New York Times, and the Guardian used this way by cheap cheaters and sleazy publishers is too sad for words. Even worse, perhaps, is to see honourable journalists pulled into this sleaze without the ability to defend themselves.

And then there’s the trusting, decent Canadian who wants to read a reasonably fair and accurate summation of public affairs, and a bit of peace and quiet – a bit of a lie-down, you might say.

There we have the contest. Who will hear the wise words, look around him, arise and slowly walk away?

The winner of the Common Sense Canadian Political Perspicacity Prize will soon be presented at a formal dinner at the White House, time to be announced.

And the winner is?

Why Rafe Mair gave Sun and Province a stay of execution

Postmedia’s alternate version of energy realities


Why Rafe Mair gave Sun and Province a stay of execution

Yesterday in my email inbox, the chickens began to come home to roost for Postmedia – the Canadian newspaper chain.

My first letter came from a constant correspondent who gave the Official statistics for BC Hydro losses going back to the old NDP years. Since the Campbell/Clark government, the losses have been staggering and BC Hydro is clearly in huge trouble. Those who have read this publication and followed such economic luminaries as Erik Andersen know that most of this goes straight to the catastrophic Campbell energy policy of 2002 which gave the production of new power to the private sector and forced BC Hydro to pay a huge premium for this power. Amongst other things, it was a policy that took hundreds of millions of dollars per year out of the BC treasury, in addition to setting BC Hydro on a path to bankruptcy.

On the eve of Christy Clark’s election in 2011, I had this to say on my website:

[quote]What does this [Energy Policy] mean in real terms?

The bankruptcy of BC Hydro, which will remain only as a conduit by which the private producers (IPPs) funnel their ill-gotten gains to their shareholders abroad.

It means that more and more of our precious rivers will be dammed (IPPs prefer the word “weir” in keeping with the Orwellian “newspeak” that abounds with these guys), with clear cuts for roads and transmission lines.

It means that new pipelines and enlarged old ones will carry the sludge from the Tar Sands to our coast with the mathematical certainty of environmental disasters – without our government making a nickel out of it.

It means that supertankers will proliferate on our coast again with the mathematical certainty of catastrophic spills.

It means continuation of the phoney environmental hearings where the public is denied its right to challenge the need for the project in the first place.

It means that the already truncated BC Utilities Commission, which oversees (or is supposed to) all energy proposals, will be abolished or maintained as a lame duck puppet of the Liberal Government

It means that the private sector will, unhindered, do as it pleases to our environment.

People like me will be jeered as being “against progress, against profit and anti-business”.[/quote]

The Common Sense Canadian, over the years since its inception in 2010, has quoted scientist after scientist, economist after economist, in column after column, to back up our claims. I, along with the estimable Joe Foy of the Wilderness Committee, campaigned against this policy all over the Province in the 2011 Election.

Today we learn that BC Hydro’s debt under the Liberal governments of Campbell/Clark has increased $9.4 Billion!

Yet this monumental story of incompetence, stupidity, political favouritism, ruination of our rivers and fish, fattening the wallets of international business at the expense of the BC taxpayer has been virtually ignored from the start, in all its aspects, by the Vancouver Sun, the Vancouver Province and the National Post – the Postmedia papers. Columnists once famous for holding governments’ feet to the fire have been silent. I wonder why? Perhaps we will see the answer in a moment.      

Postmedia teams up with oil and gas lobbies

The second email I received this morning set forth the deepening and ever-increasing reaction from the public to the revelations that Postmedia are official partners in promoting LNG in Squamish.

Damien and I have been reporting on the public relations shenanigans surrounding the proposed Woodfibre LNG project, chapter and verse, cheat by cheat, lie by lie – including doctored interviews – for many months. These tactics have been directed by Resource Works, the unofficial lobby for Woodfibre. Their efforts have been helped greatly by an official Partnership with the Province – evident in all the op-ed space they receive in Postmedia’s pages. 

One can’t blame people for taking a while to react because this is such an extraordinary event that it completely takes the breath away. Here we have Canada’s largest newspaper company financially involved with a highly controversial industry and pretending at the same time to report on it impartially.

You’ll be hard-pressed to find in either of the two Vancouver papers or indeed the National Post, any critical analysis on LNG whether it be its extraction as natural gas, its impact on the atmosphere, the “fracking” process, its conversion to LNG, its transport abroad, or any other aspect.

It goes further than this because Postmedia has developed a multimillion-dollar partnership with the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP). This is evident in the National Post, Postmedia’s flagship, which has virtually endorsed, root and branch, the positions of the industry on all matters of oil production and distribution.

All of this has been reported here in The Common Sense Canadian in clear, unadorned English on several occasions without response.

Media and democracy

Now let’s talk in real terms.

You, the reader, a free citizen, are quite entitled to whatever opinions you may wish on the whole aspect of fossil fuels. You may be dedicated to the proposition “the more the merrier” and that’s what a free country is all about. I think you’re a damned fool but that, too, is what a free country is all about.

At the same time, you, I and everybody else, are entitled to all possible information about this and other issues so that we can make up our minds based upon knowledge not simple prejudice.

This you have been denied and it is going to get worse.

Let’s look at a practical example from the last couple of weeks in the Vancouver Sun and Province. They’ve been full of “feel good” stories about LNG communities popping up around the province with all kinds of good things for all.

These stories are not accidents. They are plain and simple plants by the industry through their journalistic partner in order to affect, positively, your view of the LNG industry.

We have, most of us at any rate, grown up with the suspicion that you can’t believe everything you read in the newspapers. Nevertheless, most of us feel we’ve learned to read between the lines and to sort out the pepper from the fly shit. This, I hate to say, is no longer possible because they’re now the same thing.

No longer can you read a single solitary item about fossil fuels in general or, in our bailiwick, LNG specifically, in the Postmedia press and believe a single word. Everything published by the Vancouver Province, the Vancouver Sun, or the National Post concerning LNG is done as a paid partner in the project. That can never ever be forgotten by any who wish to be informed, objective observers of the LNG scene.

It truly sickens me to have to make these observations. I have known, respected, liked, gone to UBC with, spilled beer with – you name it – print journalists going back some 65 years. I grew up on newspapers and, even given the crap provided today, still subscribe. It’s very difficult for me to think of Postmedia going under with all of the jobs that entails.

The fact remains that Postmedia doesn’t deserve to exist in any world of journalism where there is a soupçon of journalistic ethics remaining.      

Northern First Nations band together to block Petronas' LNG plans

Northern First Nations band together to block Petronas’ LNG plans

Northern First Nations band together to block Petronas' LNG plans
Gitxsan leaders of Madii Lii Camp are standing behind the Lax Kw’alaams (submitted)

Several First Nations groups are banding together to block early work by contractors for Petronas’ Lelu Island LNG terminal. Leaders of the Madii Lii resistance camp – situated atop several proposed pipeline routes in the Skeena Valley – are rallying behind hereditary chiefs of the Lax Kw’alaams Nation who have been occupying Lelu Island in opposition to survey work for Petronas’ controversial project.

“We are standing together with the Chiefs on Lelu Island in opposition to the same LNG project. Our Madii Lii territory is on the pipeline route, and their Lelu Island territory is on the terminal site. We have both said no,” said Gitxsan Hereditary Chief Luutkudziiwus (Charlie Wright) in a statement today.

“This project threatens the salmon that all Skeena River and North Coast people depend on, and we thank the Yahaan (Don Wesley) and other Tsimshian Chiefs for what they are doing for all of us.”

Hereditary chiefs hold the line

Hereditary leaders of the Lax Kw’alaams and their supporters – a group of approximately 45 in total – erected a camp on Lelu Island, in the Skeena estuary, about two weeks ago in order to halt seismic and survey work by Petronas’ contractors. The work reportedly stems from concerns raised by the Lax Kw’alaams’ elected leadership over the initially planned location of a causeway for ships visiting the terminal – which sat in the middle of vital, sensitive habitat for salmon and other marine life. The elected leaders granted permission to the contractors to survey the area for an alternate location for the causeway, but this has not sat well with a group of hereditary chiefs now leading the occupation.

They confronted the crew of the Quin Delta drill ship and a barge which moved into the area over the weekend.

According to The Vancouver Sun, “Some equipment was set up before First Nations went out to the ship and asked the workers to stop, said Joey Wesley, a Lax Kw’alaams First Nation member. The activity ceased, but the workers appeared to have trouble removing equipment from the ocean floor, including heavy concrete blocks with surface markers, he said. The ship and barge remained in their location on Sunday just off Lelu Island, said Wesley.”

Shocking Petronas audit raises fears in BC

Concerns have been compounded by recent revelations by The Sun of a damning audit of Petronas’ Malaysian offshore operations, which reveals systemic neglect of equipment and safety issues.

Moreover, while Petronas’ contractors are operating under permits from the BC government and the Prince Rupert Port Authority, the federal review for the project is ongoing, after facing multiple delays owing to unanswered questions from the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency.

The Port Authority is nevertheless warning that it will take action against anyone who obstructs survey work for the Lelu Island project – which will likely only inflame an already tense situation.

Gitxsan to take legal action

The Gitxsan leaders of Madii Lii Camp are not only backing their Skeena brethren, but they have been occupying their own territory in staunch opposition to pipeline construction and are now promising legal action of their own. “We are taking the government to court over the lack of consultation, the inadequate baseline information presented, the weak and subjective impact assessment, the current cumulative effects from past development, and the massive infringement of our Aboriginal rights,” says Madii Lii spokesperson Richard Wright.

“People are now on the ground blocking the Petronas project from the coast to far inland.”

Is ‘reconciliation’ possible amid energy conflicts?

These actions are mirrored by the Unist’ot’en Camp in Wet’suwet’en territory to the south, which stands in the path of several planned Kitimat-bound gas pipelines and the proposed Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline. Tensions there have also grown recently, with the spectre of an armed RCMP takedown of the camp.

Despite a recent meeting between the BC Liberal government and First Nations leaders, aimed at reconciling historical enmity between the two groups, Premier Christy Clark’s key economic vision of LNG development remains dogged by First Nations at every turn. In addition to the above conflicts, the Fort Nelson First Nation recently won a landmark victory at the Environmental Appeal Board, forcing the cancellation of a major water licence for fracking, while the Tsartlip First Nation poured cold water on the notion of a floating LNG terminal in Saanich Inlet.

Tsartlip First Nation blasts Steelhead LNG over proposed Saanich project

Tsartlip First Nation blasts Steelhead LNG over proposed Saanich project

Tsartlip First Nation blasts Steelhead LNG over proposed Saanich project
Tsartlip Chief Don Tom opposing another unwanted project – construction of a luxury home on burial grounds

The Tsartlip First Nation on southern Vancouver Island is weighing in on a proposed LNG project for the Saanich Inlet – pouring cold water on an August 20 announcement by proponent Steelhead LNG touting the support of the neighbouring Malahat Nation. Both groups are jumping the gun, warns Tsartlip Chief Don Tom:

[quote]Tsartlip has requested a meeting with Steelhead LNG and it will take place onSeptember 11th. We intend on making it clear that Tsartlip First Nation’s approval will be required for any LNG project to proceed. We oppose the aggressive approach taken by Steelhead LNG and their Board of Directors by publicly announcing the project prior to any discussions with the Tsartlip community.[/quote]

This strong statement comes two weeks after Steelhead – which describes itself as “a Vancouver-based energy company focused on LNG project development in British Columbia” – trumpeted a “mutual benefits agreement” with the Malahat for a proposed floating LNG terminal in the Saanich Inlet at Bamberton. At the same time, the company announced that it had secured a builder, US pipeline company Williams, to begin designing the “Island Connector Project”, which would carry gas from Cherry Point, Washington to the floating plant.

“Tsartlip are the owners of the territory located on the eastern shore of the Saanich Inlet in Brentwood Bay and Tsartlip owns Goldstream Indian Reserve #13 directly to the south of the proposed LNG terminal location,” said a news release from the nation earlier today.

[quote]Steelhead LNG appears to be using a ‘cookie cutter’ approach in dealing with First Nations, this approach will not work with Tsartlip. We take offense to the aggressive pursuit of Malahat LNG without respectful acknowledgment of our Territory.[/quote]

The project is just the latest example of the problems energy companies can face when they ignore local First Nations’ concerns. Petronas faces similar challenges with the recent occupation by members of the Lax Kw’laams Nation of Lelu Island near Prince Rupert; while tensions continue mounting over pipelines planned to transit Unist’ot’en territory along the Morice River.

Further south, concerns have been raised by a growing number of groups and individuals about the risks of running LNG tankers through narrow passages and highly populated areas – which Chief Tom echoed in his comments today: ‎“Tsartlip takes tremendous pride in protecting all aspects of our community and will not subject our people to the risks around pipelines and LNG terminals, so far their process can be characterized as disrespectful and insulting.”