Category Archives: Media

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.      


Postmedia partners with LNG lobby to sell Woodfibre LNG – latest lapse in journalistic integrity

Resource Works Executive Director Stewart Muir (Credit: Resource Works - Flickr  CC licence)
Resource Works ED and ex-Vancouver Sun deputy editor Stewart Muir (Resource Works – Flickr CC licence)

I am, as readers well know, a babe in the woods when it comes to matters of journalism. Ever naive, I read the papers in awe and know that all times they have my better understanding of affairs at heart.

Well then, imagine my horror when I found that my hopes and dreams had been dashed. I’m like that little boy seeing his idol, Shoeless Joe Jackson, arrested for cheating, mumbling through tears of disappointment, “Say it ain’t so, Joe.” Here’s how it happened.

About a year ago, one Stewart Muir, for nearly 14 years the Deputy Managing Editor of the Vancouver Sun, founded an organization called Resource Works, stated to be an independent organization dedicated to bringing people together to come up with sensible answers to environmental concerns. (As the Duke of Wellington said when a man accosted him on the street with “Mr. Robinson, I believe”, “If you’ll believe that you’ll believe anything! “).

As we have well demonstrated in these pages, one of Resource Works’ main functions – amidst broad platitudes about “breaking the ice in the controversial resource debate, through research and honest, respectful dialogue” – is to promote the controversial, proposed Woodfibre LNG project near Squamish.

Now comes the part where, if you’re a believer in newspaper honour and ethics, you’d be wise to pour yourself a stiff drink.

Dangerous liaison

The first thing available to you when you “Google” Resource Works is a document called “About Resource Works. It’s bright and full of pretty videos and even prettier statements about Resource Works. When you get to the bottom, it’s black as the inside of a goat with barely legible grey printing. Scroll down – make sure you have lots of light – and there’s a heading called “Partnerships”, which tells you, “We’re proud to work with a diverse range of partners“.

And who are these partners?

Under “P” just above RBC Royal Bank – are you ready for this? – none other than the Vancouver Province!

In the name of God, the Province, Resource Works, and by logical extension, Woodfibre LNG, are partners!

In short, Postmedia, which includes the Vancouver Sun, the Province, and the flagship National Post are shills for  a highly controversial undertaking which we expect them to hold to account on our behalf!

Composite of Resource Works "Partnerships" page
Composite of Resource Works “Partnerships” page

Conflict of interest?

Is it any surprise that the Province doesn’t care about the ethics of the owner of Woodfibre LNG? Or any wonder they’re not concerned that Howe Sound and the Fraser River are too narrow for LNG tankers?

This is a good moment to look at how a newspaper ought to behave, as outlined in the Pew Reseach Centre’s nine core principles of journalism:

[quote]While news organizations answer to many constituencies, including advertisers and shareholders, the journalists in those organizations must maintain allegiance to citizens and the larger public interest above any other if they are to provide the news without fear or favour. This commitment to citizens first is the basis of a news organization’s credibility, the implied covenant that tells the audience the coverage is not slanted for friends or advertisers.[/quote]

I can’t imagine any publisher or editor arguing with the proposition that their papers cannot place themselves in a conflict of interest, real or perceived, any more than a Member of Parliament or MLA can. Remember the merry hell the media raised with then Premier Vander Zalm when he confused his role as premier with hustler of a theme park?

Industry gets easy ride from papers

Let’s look, then, at two environmental issues which have come to the fore since the Campbell government came into power in 2001 and see if we can spot a conflict of interest?

During that time, The Sun and Province each had a political columnist, Vaughn Palmer for the former and Mike Smyth for the latter.

First, a quick look back at Palmer’s columns during the NDP decade. He was thorough, critical, and accurate. He almost single-handedly brought down the Glen Clark premiership with his coverage of the fast ferry fiasco. I can’t think of any issue where the NDP of that decade got an easy ride from Palmer – nor, for that matter, should they have

Starting in 2001, Palmer changed from being a government critic to being only a critic of things that were not going to get his newspaper into trouble with the government or advertisers.

Example: Early in his regime, Campbell brought in a new energy policy which, with the exception of Site “C”, forbade BC Hydro from creating any new sources of power and gave that right exclusively to the private sector. This “Run Of River” policy is, far from being a benign as advertised, hugely destructive in several respects. Prominent economists added the concern that BC Hydro was losing buckets of money by being forced to buy private power at several times the cost of either importing or making the power themselves.

Private power play

This was a big election issue in 2009, every bit as egregious a sin, hell, far more egregious than the Fast Ferries debacle. There was the documented damage to rivers not just by dams (the private power people preferred “weirs”) but roads and power lines to the critical insect population, the resident trout that were seriously imperilled, as were spawning salmon, and thus gulls and eagles – a plethora of issues.

Palmer rarely covered this policy and when he did, it was usually in defence of it. For 14 years, Palmer and Sun editorials have spared the Liberals from a moment’s discomfort on this subject!

Palmer ignores troubling LNG facts

Fast forward to more recent days, the Christy Clark government and LNG. Clark, apart from making a horse’s ass of herself with promises of a hundred billion dollar Prosperity Fund, has displayed child-like indifference to the many serious issues involved.

Woodfibre LNG proponent has history of fraud, tax evasion
Sukanto Tanoto (right)

For starters, wouldn’t you think that Palmer, would have  thoroughly investigated the background of Sukanto Tanoto, the man behind Woodfibre LNG?

As everyone knows, Mr. Tanoto is a convicted, big league tax avoider and destroyer of tropical jungles. The evidence is thorough and easily available but Postmedia and Palmer seem quite uninterested in whether or not WLNG would pay its taxes and respect our environment.

There is now overwhelming evidence from leading scientists that both Howe Sound and the Fraser River are far too narrow to sustain LNG tanker traffic. This, apparently, is of no concern to Palmer and Postmedia either

Why not?, I wonder.

There are, of course, many other concerns about LNG, including fracking, transferring natural gas to the plant, converting it into LNG, and the hazards of producing it and loading it for transport. Again, one would’ve expected Mr. Palmer to examine this issue pretty carefully. To the best of my knowledge, he has not written a word on these problems.

Neither has Mike Smyth for the Province written much critical on these two enormous issues.

Why would these men avoid these two major topics. They are both skilled writers and it’s hard to explain their silence. Could they be under outside pressure? That suspicion certainly crosses the mind.

Postmedia sells journalistic credibility to oil lobby

Last year, the Vancouver Observer reported on a Postmedia presentation that outlined a content strategy including several Financial Post “Special Report” sections, with topics to be arranged by Postmedia and the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP).

The partnership also includes 12 single-page “joint venture” features in newspapers across the country. Those are different from “special reports” in that CAPP fully directs the topics and Postmedia writers just pen them.

This note from Douglas Kelly, the publisher of Postmedia’s National Post, may help explain these, ahem, corporate blow-jobs:

[quote]From its inception, the National Post has been one of the country’s leading voices on the importance of energy to Canada’s business competitiveness internationally and our economic well being in general. We will work with CAPP to amplify our energy mandate and to be part of the solution to keep Canada competitive in the global marketplace. The National Post will undertake to leverage all means editorially, technically and creatively to further this critical conversation.[/quote]

Now there’s “arms length” journalism for you! This helps explain the Sun and Province’s support for the Kinder Morgan pipeline expansion, opposed by many municipalities and citizens affected by the project.

A lucrative partnership

Resource Works and the Province have had a very profitable time as partners.

RW teamed up with the paper to produce a weekly feature on how important trade, industry and resource development are to the B.C. economy. Combining company propaganda and being partners, one can assume that the financial deal was very favourable to the Province.

Postmedia alum Muir gets lots of op-ed ink from his old employer
Postmedia alum Muir gets lots of op-ed ink from his old employer

The Province gave Muir a podium to argue that we can’t have health care without LNG development. It continues to give him a regular soapbox, as you will have noticed in what appear to be op-ed pieces at will. You might also have noticed that when I, for example, answer one of his screeds, it’s heavily censored and published several days later, if at all…after which Muir is given free reign to rebut my rebuttal.

The Province also gave a similar podium to Resource Works adviser Dan Miller, who was briefly premier as the New Democrats imploded in 2000. Miller is a long-time resource industry evangelist and a consultant with PR powerhouse National Public Relations, which has Enbridge as a client. Partners, you see, are nothing if not loyal.

Clearly, Postmedia takes its obligation as RW’s partner very seriously indeed!

Did Resource Works doctor interview?

But could it be that despite all this, Resource Works is still telling us the true state of affairs?

Screen capture of alleged interview by Meena Mann (left) with Dr. Mike Hightower (right), which appears to have been doctored
Screen capture of alleged interview by Meena Mann (left) with Dr. Mike Hightower (right), which appears to have been doctored

To answer that, I’m going to poach on my own column, here, of March 15, 2015. I’m satisfied that it succinctly and fairly sums up the situation.

The Province and Sun haven’t uttered a peep of concern about the adequacy of Howe Sound to handle LNG tankers. Perhaps this has something to do with their partnership with their old colleague Muir and his Resource Works – d’ya think?

When they unveiled their Citizens Guide to LNG: Sea to Sky Country Edition in March, we were told to watch a video interview of Dr. Michael Hightower, an expert on tanker traffic.

Here is what I wrote, in part:

Let’s look at transportation of LNG by tanker through Howe Sound. I do that not just because it’s of enormous concern to everybody who lives along the proposed route, but because Resource Works dwells upon the issue. They concede that if tankers go too close to the shore, there could be a problem. However, they assure us there is no problem because they spoke to Dr. Mike Hightower, of Sandia Laboratories in New Mexico, a world acknowledged expert on the subject, who’s developed a protocol accepted by US authorities for the distances ships must maintain between themselves and the shore.

Resource Works has produced a number of videos which they make available to the public in order to sell the benefits of LNG. In all of them the interviewer is an attractive young lady named Meena Mann. It is in one of them, featured on the Vancouver Province (surprise, surprise!) website, where Dr. Hightower appears to talk to Ms. Mann about LNG and tankers and you would likely conclude that there is very little danger, if any, posed by LNG tankers in Howe Sound.

Here is what Sandia has reported, based upon Dr Hightower’s work:

“Sandia National Laboratories defines for the US Department of Energy three Hazard Zones (also called “Zones of Concern”) surrounding LNG carriers. The largest Zone is 2.2 miles/3,500 meters around the vessel, indicating that LNG ports and tankers must be located at least that distance from civilians. Some world-recognized LNG hazard experts, such as Dr. Jerry Havens (University of Arkansas; former Coast Guard LNG vapor hazard researcher), indicate that three miles or more is a more realistic Hazard Zone distance.”

What the video does not tell you is that Dr. Hightower had not addressed his attention to Howe Sound, and when local resident Dr. Eoin Finn did so, Dr. Hightower concurred that Bowen Island and parts of West Vancouver are very much at risk – within the 1-mile radius – as are parts of the Sea-to-Sky Highway and Lions Bay/Bowyer Island. In other words, if one accepts Dr. Hightower’s formula, as Resource Works clearly does, there is no way any LNG tankers would be permitted to proceed from Squamish to the ocean.

Dr. Finn, a  former KPMG partner and chemistry PhD, took the time to phone Dr. Hightower because the interview didn’t look quite right. Well, it wasn’t right because it wasn’t conducted by Meena Mann at all but by a male!

Was the question changed when Ms. Mann did her fake interview? Was Dr. Hightower’s answer altered? I don’t know but this sort of shabby deception is bound to raise doubts like this. What we do know is that far from supporting Resource Works’ assertion that LNG tanker traffic is safe in Howe Sound, given the facts, Dr. Hightower comes to exactly the opposite conclusion …

Resource Works is guilty of a hugely deceptive practice. Even if Miss Mann asked precisely the same questions the real interviewer did, there are different inflections in the voice no doubt and her body language during the interview was, to say the least, descriptive of her feelings. If this is an example of the integrity of Resource Works, they are not entitled to any credibility whatsoever.

Resource Works’ distortions continue.

A case was brought in 2013 against Encana and the province by the Wilderness Committee and Sierra Club. The issue was whether or not section 8 of the Water Act, which allows back-to-back short-term permits, was valid. That was the sole issue; the judge made it clear that she wasn’t deciding on the government’s overall water policy, or the “fracking” question, but whether back-to-back short term water leases under The Water Act were valid – bear that in mind.

Resource Works, in reporting this – and I quote, from page 47 of A Citizen’s Guide To LNG: Sea To Sky Country Edition – states: “When a ruling came down in late 2014 it showed that the regulatory processes in place, and industry compliance with them, are sound and well managed.

“In an overwhelming endorsement of current practices in water protection, Justice Fitzpatrick concluded that when it comes to the regulation of industries water usage, British Columbia is in good shape with a “justifiable transparent and intelligible framework for the regulation of short term water use.”

In fact, she did no such thing as a reading of the judgment makes abundantly clear. She confined her decision to the interpretation of Section 8 only. The issue was whether or not section 8 of the Water Act, which allows gas companies to get an endless number of water approvals back-to-back, was lawful.

Only a practitioner of the black arts of Public Relations could read into Madam Justice Fitzpatrick’s judgment that she said “that the regulatory processes in place, and industry compliance with them, are sound and well managed”, or “when it comes to the regulation of industries water usage, British Columbia is in good shape.’”

She simply did not say this!

Over the decades, I’ve seen unscrupulous people misquote judges but never have I seen a situation like this where the judge’s words were completely made up to suit!

Credibility gap

Surely, one’s entitled to conclude that this sort of dissembling, distortion, and outright misrepresentation colours all of the presentations of this outfit not to mention their partners, Postmedia.

What we have then is an organization, Resource Works, set up to deceive people and they’ve diligently done just that. They pretended initially that they were “independents” only trying to get a dialogue going between people but, as anybody who takes a glance at this issue would quickly confirm, this was barnyard droppings. RW is clearly a shill for Woodfibre LNG, plain and simple.

Part of this process of deceiving the public comes in what Resource Works does not say. It’s interesting, for example, that A Citizen’s Guide To LNG: Sea To Sky Country Edition doesn’t touch the issue of “fracking” until page 46 and then only in two brief paragraphs. It mentions that there is a US documentary on the subject but says that they, Resource Works, don’t think there’s any evidence of problems with “fracking” in BC. If that doesn’t convince you, I ask you, what will?

To make matters much worse – and the purpose of this column – is that one of the largest media corporations in Canada is involved up to their ears in this sham – I nearly said scam – and no longer can make any pretence at providing independent information for its readers. It’s like a clock that strikes 13 – you can never trust it again.

Is that overstating the matter?

I think not.

Circling the drain

By their own clear admission, Postmedia is in deep financial trouble, laying off and buying out huge numbers of employees. Their stated reason is lack of advertising revenue. Does this affect their reporting of what advertisers, current and potential, are up to? Does it impact on how they report on governments supported by those advertisers? Has it made it attractive enough for them to ignore time-honoured journalistic ethics and make unholy alliances? These thoughts are bound to occur to one.

When you read nothing from either the local paper’s political commentators on the downside of the Woodfibre LNG proposal, given that Postmedia’s a partner, does it not immediately occur to you that something’s strange here? Here’s an issue which may bring down the Clark government and both Vaughn Palmer and Mike Smyth, political commentators, are apparently not interested!

Can we trust anything concerning LNG when it appears in Postmedia? Can they be trusted to fairly present opposition to Woodfibre LNG? What are they not reporting?

My father used to say, “Rafe, don’t believe everything that you read in the newspapers.” I change that advice to my children and grandchildren by saying, “apart from the comic strips and possibly the Obituary Page, don’t believe a damn thing you read in the newspapers!”

Unless, of course, you believe in the Easter Bunny, think slot machines are fair and are interested in buying a bridge I have for sale.

Christy Clark should try being more leader, less cheerleader

Rafe: Christy Clark should try being more leader, less cheerleader

Christy Clark should try being more leader, less cheerleader
BC Premier Christy Clark dons Canucks jersey during 2013 election campaign (Andy Clark / Reuters)

Nowhere in the appalling record of the Liberal government in Victoria has its shortcomings been more obvious than at the very top. Premier Christy Clark has been a terrible leader whose pronouncements get more and more embarrassing as time passes.

However, she so dominates the government that one is hard-pressed to think of even the names of her cabinet ministers, which doesn’t say much for their abilities or courage to speak out on issues.

Tsilhqot’in move merited praise…BUT the proof is in the pudding

I recently applauded Premier Clark for making formal contact with the Tsilhquot’in First Nation. I did this because she was right to do so. What she has said since makes me wonder if she really understood what she was supposed to be doing. That she understands the obvious politics in what she has done is clear but there is no evidence that she and her government comprehend what must now be a clear policy. We wait and see with hope, if not much confidence.

Absence of political courage

The premier simply cannot get serious. She always thinks of photo opportunities and public relations. In so doing, she totally discounts the need for common sense or consistency with other government policies. What she considers least is the impact of her airy-fairy words on the issue in question. Her need to make sense is permanently diminished by her inability to do so.

Nothing in this bankruptcy of leadership has suffered more than the area of energy and the environment.

The Mount Polley catastrophe and the absence of any investigation into her government’s own role simply typifies the utter disregard Premier Clark has for the requirements of leadership – one of the main ones being political courage.

On environment, media hasn’t held Clark’s feet to the fire

Vaughn Palmer of the Vancouver Sun has much disappointed me on environmental matters since the Liberals took office in 2001. It’s not what Palmer has said – it’s the absence of any comment whatsoever which is troubling.

Considering Palmer’s yeoman service when the in the NDP were in power, we were entitled to expect that this same close attention to government policy would be maintained. In fact, in these areas there has been none from the mainstream media.

LNG: house of cards crumbling

Palmer has, in my view, redeemed himself considerably by his writings on LNG. He has consistently poked at the government and their starry-eyed approach to this question and, as time has passed, it is becoming clear that those of us who from the very beginning were throwing cold water on Clark’s blatherings were right after all.

My own skepticism was fuelled simply by what I read about the energy situation in Asia – of much more importance were the words of experts such as economist Erik Andersen and energy scientists who made it clear that the government had no grounds whatsoever for its wild enthusiasm.

“Prosperity” fund shrinks from $100 Billion to “billions”

This, I think, is what is so troubling about the Premier’s actions past and present. You may remember that during the last election, the “Prosperity Fund” which was the subject of the premier’s reveries, was going to add a trillion dollars to our GDP and  $100 billion to our provincial coffers!

Instead of the premier and her experts in the energy field coldly and soberly analyzing the prospects for sale of LNG from BC plants to Asian markets, we got the fulminations of a cheerleader, the content of which made as much sense as most high school cheerleaders make. This is not what the public of British Columbia needs and indeed is not terribly helpful to the industry itself.

Today, Clark is promising only “billions of dollars” from LNG – but how many? “Billions” could technically be as few as two. She’s  considerably less specific on that point today…

Palmer, in carefully researched interventions, is bringing doses of reality to badly-hyped government propaganda.

NDP opposition not much help either

Unhappily, the leader of the NDP, John Horgan is not much more helpful than Clark. In the very beginning, he anchored himself to a policy of supporting LNG – without any clear idea as to what that blanket support was going to entail. Now, instead of being able to criticize government policy, he is stuck with past pronouncements.

Leadership is not cheerleading

Leadership is not about raising unreasonable expectations or allowing those expectations to remain unchallenged. Quite the opposite. Leadership is about cool, unemotional analysis of issues and putting careful processes in place to make sure that initiatives are successful.

There is nothing the matter, of course – and, indeed, a great deal right – about government and opposition leaders supporting that which is good for the province of British Columbia. It is courageously determining whether or not it is good that is the sign of leadership.

There seems to be little any of us can do about it. So long as the Liberal Party is content to stay with Ms. Clark, she will likely stay. Dislodging a sitting leader is a daunting prospect, indeed. As the NDP have shown, it’s difficult enough to dislodge one that isn’t sitting.

Unless there is a miraculous sea change in the attitude from Mr. Horgan and his party, they are not going to provide the “government-in-waiting” that oppositions are supposed to provide. This is a most unhealthy situation.

Media matters

Once more, this all underlines the importance of a vigilant media. Mr. Palmer deserves credit for his assumption of leadership on the LNG issue. This leadership, must, however, be broadened to include the entire energy picture – and, of course, the overall issue of the environment.

This journal will continue to be ever on top of these issues, but it needs help from the mainstream media, who thus far have abdicated their responsibilities herein.

May the example of Mr. Palmer extend to others at his newspaper, the Vancouver Sun, television media and others.

Only when it does will we have a force in this province that effectively holds governments’ feet to the fire and exposes the puerile blatherings of the premier for what they are.

Rafe: Heavy oil advertising, editorials taint Canadian mag The Walrus

Rafe: Heavy oil advertising, editorials taint Canadian mag The Walrus

Rafe: Heavy oil advertising, editorials taint Canadian mag The Walrus
Enbridge is a major Walrus sponsor (Photo: Damien Gillis)

I am afraid I really am a gloomy Gus today. It has just struck me that there is an absence of good guys in the world. Whether it’s big business or government they mostly do it to us and reek of self interest.

We don’t seem to have anybody we can trust anymore. There was a time when, while you couldn’t trust the newspapers, you would be able to find within the paper columnists that weren’t bought and paid for. They consistently gave you points of view that challenged you and made you think. Thank God for online papers like this one and and for all of the renegades who put so much time and effort into blogging.

Whether on-line papers and bloggers have yet achieved the kind of circulation that will really move public opinion I don’t know but  they are a ray of light in an otherwise bleak picture.

And then there were three

My printed purchases now are down to three.

I subscribe to the Atlantic because it does have excellent articles and entertains and make me think too. I am looking forward to the forthcoming issue where Hillary Clinton apparently criticizes the foreign policy of President Obama and has spent every waking moment since trying to explain to the president that she really didn’t mean it.

I also subscribe to the Guardian Weekly because it provides excellent columnists and great, what British refer to as leader writers.

A couple of years ago I was turned onto a Canadian publication called the Walrus. This magazine is unique in that it refuses to accept my cancellation.

Enbridge features heavily in Walrus

Normally when I read it, I just get angry at how Toronto-centric it is. It is a view of the rest of Canada from a Toronto point of view, tailored to Toronto prejudices. This last particular issue was a huge departure because it had an article on Andrew Weaver, the BC Green party MLA. It was only a page long but there was something real and truly British Columbian. It was not terribly interesting and if you lived in British Columbia not a very new story but it was about the West Coast and that, for the Walrus, is unique.

What I had hoped to get from the Walrus was controversy. I was led to believe that there would be articles on the environment and critical of things like the Tar Sands and so on. Well, the latest issue that I have, September 2014, is anything but.

The first two pages are a huge double page ad by Enbridge. Enbridge appears again with another full-page ad and also as a sponsor of various things in which the Walrus is also involved in such as lecture series (in Toronto, of course.) There is also an insert on aboriginal art, sponsored by, guess who?

I suppose you take your advertisers where you can find them and I’m sure the Enbridge people have nothing whatever to do with the content of Walrus. Well, I wonder.

Waxing poetic about the Tar Sands

One of the feature articles this month, lo and behold, is called “If We Build It, They Will Stay” by a man named John van Nostrand. Van Nostrand’s claim to expertise is that “he is an architect, an urban planner, and the founding principal of the Planning alliance in Toronto”. (Really, I’m not making this up!)

This article looks at the whole north of Canada as one belt of resources to be exploited. British Columbia is noteworthy for a large entry at Kitimat called liquefied natural gas. Next door to it in Alberta is oil, gas, and bitumen.

When you read the article, the section on the Tar Sands is almost religious in its zeal. It could have been written by the PR department of, say, Enbridge. Needless to say there is not a critical word about any of the environmental concerns many of us have about LNG and the Tar Sands.

Now, could this have anything to do with the fact that Enbridge is such a big advertiser?

Surely only a cynic would think that. Then, of course, sensing a touch of cynicism in the back of my mind, I went back over the ads in the Walrus. They have very few  traditional ads. There was one from Subaru and the only other typical national ads I could find was were RBC and Rolex. Everything else are little ads inviting me, for example, to go to dinner at the Royal York Hotel or see Madame Butterfly at the Four Seasons Centre for the performing arts in Toronto.

Walrus’ charitable nature

Not wishing to be unfair, I thought I should take a look on the masthead and see if there were any mission statements and things of that sort. I thought it might also tell me a bit about who these cats are running this magazine.

Well, there was a surprise in store for me. It says the Walrus Magazine is a project of the charitable, nonprofit Walrus Foundation.

Now one’s first reaction would be, well charitable organizations have got to take their money wherever they can find it. Except that’s not usually how it works.

A magazine put out by charity is usually very careful not to get involved in controversy. It may write articles that are thought provoking in nature but they are in very careful not to take money from people who have a large axe to grind. One of the reasons for that, of course, is that they don’t want pressure put on them to make certain that their articles don’t offend the ” money” folks. Let me assure you there’s no danger of that happening here!

Now, I am going to admit this is not the world’s biggest deal. I frankly don’t give a rats ass what the Walrus  publishes, whose backside it kisses or who it’s target audience is. It can, for all I care, get its money directly from the Mafia.

What I find so disappointing is that here is an opportunIty for a Canadian publication to make an honest effort to expose to Canadians, Canadian issues.

A blow job for the industry, financed by the industry

“If We Build It, They Will Stay” was a glorious opportunity to lay before for the Canadian people the whole issue of northern development particularly with regard to resources. The article stretches from the the Yukon to Newfoundland and Labrador and should open up a lot of controversy, provoking a lot of intelligent conversation. It is, rather, to put it somewhat indelicately, a blow job for the resource industry in a magazine that is obviously financed by the resource industry.

What is really worrying, is that there maybe some Canadian out there that doesn’t recognize this. Of course, Enbridge is banking on this.

As I said when I started, I’m grumpy today and that’s largely because there are so few places to go where you can get information that will lead you to further information and then on to a healthy public debate.

If the Walrus does nothing else, it adds fuel to the argument that the electronic and print press in this country is captive to “big money” and in the case of the Walrus, is not even very subtle about it.


Big Oil, Big Media, governments work together in 'Coporatocracy'

Big Oil, Big Media, governments work together in ‘Corporatocracy’

Big Oil, Big Media, governments work together in 'Coporatocracy'
Top corporate leaders gather at the annual Bildergberg conference in 2010

“Freedom” and “democracy” are useful words, but very bankrupt: useful because they serve to advance imperial/corporate agendas, bankrupt because they are empty vessels, perennially co-opted.

When illegal coups are orchestrated to overthrow democratically elected governments in Venezuela, Honduras, Ukraine, or elsewhere, the lies of freedom and democracy are seamlessly attached to the criminal acts.

“Freedom” and “democracy” are still cloaking, tacitly or overtly, mass murder and genocide in Iraq, at this moment.

Hostile takeovers

As long as the masses are fooled, conquest and regime change, not democracy and freedom, are enabled and perpetuated.  Illegal coups and wars of aggression are about imperial control, setting up puppet dictators, and the imposition of neoliberal economic business models for the corporate extensions of the invading nations.

Once the vanquished “host” nation is subjugated, its industries are corporatized, and wealth is extracted  for the benefit of transnational corporations, corporate elites, and local oligarchs. The vanquished nations face corresponding losses of political and economic self-determination, human rights, democracy, and freedom. De facto corporate proxy regimes may call themselves democratic, or proclaim freedom, but the words are delusional, even if those being enslaved believe otherwise.

Transnational corporate monopolies are the drivers behind the malaise.

Some of the predominant monopolies, all inter-related and mutually reinforcing, are often prefaced with the adjective “Big”.  They include:

  • Finance
  • Oil
  • Military-Industrial Complex
  • Media
  • Pharmaceuticals

These transnational monopolies  metastasize beneath protective umbrellas of secretly negotiated, supranational “free trade” agreements, and they exert disproportionate control over political economies throughout the world.  Additionally, their leverage is amplified and perpetuated through a matrix of intersecting trajectories that converge to create seamless, reciprocal unions with each other, and with elected polities.

Crony Capitalism

One strategy used by the resulting “corporatocracy” to increase its political might is the creation of a culture of “crony capitalism.” In this culture, a “revolving door” is created through which personnel from corporations and government come and go, thus creating a mutually empowering relationship, more responsible to each other than to the voting public.

Author Tony Hall reveals the inherent conflict of interest created when a “revolving door” exists between industry-funded regulators and Big Oil. In “Oil Consultant Turned Whisleblower Exposes Fracking Crimes In Alberta”,  Hall explains that Gerard Protti, the current head of the Alberta Energy Regulator (AER), is a former executive of EnCana petroleum corporation.

Not only is the industry self-regulated, but the “regulator” himself is a former executive of the industry being regulated. “His conflict of interest,” explains Hall, “is illustrative of a culture of conflict of interest that is transforming the governments of Canada and Alberta into wholly-owned subsidiaries of Texas-based and China-based oil and gas companies.”

Big Oil and Big Media join forces in Canada

Big Oil also works hand-in-hand with Big Media.  Close links between corporate media and the petroleum industry are detailed in a Vancouver Observer article entitled, “Presentation Suggests Intimate relationship Between Post Media And Oil Industry”.

According to the article, the Canadian Association Of Petroleum Producers (CAPP), a powerful right-wing “think tank”, would provide “thought leadership” for the media outlet, and that “topics (would) be directed by CAPP and written by Postmedia.”  In other words, the petroleum industry’s intent in this instance is to control media messaging related to petroleum related topics, thus creating its own platform/infomercial embedded within media that presents itself as “neutral”.  Interestingly, one of the first casualties of the proposed “marriage” was environment reporter Mike De Souza.

The Military-Industrial-Media Complex

Corporate media and the military-industrial complex are also welded together.  The Military-Industrial -Media complex profits from keeping countries on a war footing, and  is complicit in unfathomable misery throughout the world.

War and war preparations serve as a pretext for vast outlays of money from the public to corporations. Consequently, war-friendly media barely reported the huge protests against the illegal invasion of Iraq, but it did spin stories about Iraq’s imaginary Weapons Of Mass Destruction, and the imperatives of invasion.

Meanwhile, once the Shock and Awe invasion started, Pentagon inspired nomenclature such as “collateral damage” or “surgical strikes” continued to anesthetize the public to the horrors of the invasion.  Over one million died as a result of the carnage of the Second Gulf War, and the death rate is still climbing.

The interlocked military-industrial-media complex is created by the myriad of intersecting connections between the industries. Peter Philips and Mike Huff, in “Truth Emergency: Inside The Military Industrial Media Empire” describe some of these connections:

[quote]Only 118 people comprise the membership on the boards of director of the ten big media giants. These 118 individuals in turn sit on the corporate boards of 288 national and international corporations. Four of the top 10 media corporations share board director positions with the major defense contractors including:

  • William Kennard: New York Times, Carlyle Group
  • Douglas Warner III, GE (NBC), Bechtel
  • John Bryson: Disney (ABC), Boeing
  • Alwyn Lewis: Disney (ABC), Halliburton
  • Douglas McCorkindale: Gannett, Lockheed-Martin.[/quote]

The Canada-Honduras “Free” Trade Agreement

Financial monopolies, for the most part overseen by the U.S, are also wedded to the destructive, self-reinforcing web of supranationally protected monopolies.  Honduras is a case in point.

Since the US-backed coup in 2009, transnational corporations, soon to be further protected beneath the umbrella of the Canada-Honduras Free Trade Agreement, have wreaked havoc on Honduras.  Transnational Financing cartels, including the International Monetary Fund, bundle their loans with neoliberal market models, for the profit of foreign investors and Honduran oligarchs. The loans finance cash crops such as African Palm monoculture plantations, and the results are devastating to almost all Hondurans.

The plantations dispossess indigenous small-holder farmers, rob the nation of food sovereignty, and destroy indigenous cultures.  Since 2009, oligarchs, in concert with illegal proxy dictatorships, have killed 100 campesinos from the Aguan Valle alone – with impunity.

Harper caves into Big Pharma

Big Pharma , yet another protected monopoly, also creates misery and desperation throughout the world, and its influences are woven into the fabric of lies and omissions perpetuated by the other monopolies.

Michael McBane, in “Harper Caves In To Big Pharma“, argues “(We ) need to take patents out of secret trade agreements and impose conditions that benefit the public interest in exchange for drug monopolies…”

If the suppression of Big Pharma and its ubiquitous messaging were lifted, Canada could also create a National Pharmacare program, which would save Canadians about $10.7 billion per year.

Once freed from the devastating tentacles of the transnational monopolies, Canadians will realize that it’s time to call 911 on the corporatocracy. We might then recapture real democracy and freedom, rather than settle for their bankrupt facsimiles.

Peter Mansbridge tries to come clean on Oilsands talk

Peter Mansbridge tries to come clean on Oilsands talk

Peter Mansbridge tries to come clean on Oilsands talk
CBC anchor Peter Mansbridge giving a talk paid by CAPP (image: facebook)

by Paola Loriggio, The Canadian Press

TORONTO – CBC News anchor Peter Mansbridge defended himself Thursday after a report that he made a paid speech to petroleum producers, saying he has never publicly promoted or opposed oilsands development.

“If I leave a speech and those in attendance think they know where I stand on any controversial issue, then they’re guessing. Because they won’t find it in the words I’ve spoken,” he wrote in a blog post on the CBC website.

[quote]I would not, do not, and have not, given a speech either promoting oilsands development or opposing it.[/quote]

The anchor of The National said he gives about 20 speeches each year, about half of them unpaid. When he receives a fee, he often donates part or all of the money to charity, he said.

Mansbridge said the network’s senior management has always approved his speaking engagements and known when he is paid for them.

Some media watchers have suggested it’s not appropriate for journalists to accept money from groups or industries that are the subject of their reports.

CBC management vetted speech

On Wednesday, a CBC report on its president Hubert Lacroix’s appearance before a Senate committee said the anchor’s speaking engagements are vetted in advance.

“And each one is looked at to make sure there is no conflict of interest with respect … to editorial coverage and to make sure that our rules are respected,” Lacroix told the committee.

“He knows that he never offers up his opinion or takes a position on anything that is in the news when he makes those speeches.”

Murphy, Mansbridge both paid to speak by oil industry

This comes after a published report said Mansbridge was paid to speak to the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers in 2012.

He is the second CBC personality recently to face questions for reportedly receiving payment in exchange for speaking at events organized by members of the oil industry.

The network has acknowledged that Rex Murphy, who hosts the show “Cross-Country Checkup,” has given speeches supporting oilsands development.

Murphy stood by his comments in a column published last week in the National Post, saying he always speaks his mind and his opinions can’t be bought.

To suggest otherwise is “an empty, insulting slur against my reputation as a journalist,” he wrote.

News Ombudsmen beg to differ

The executive director of the Organization of News Ombudsmen told CBC Radio that neither journalist should have accepted money — and that in doing so, they’ve undermined the broadcaster’s credibility.

“The problem is in the money received,” Jeffrey Dvorkin, a former managing editor for CBC Radio, told “As It Happens.”

“In the end, there is a suspicion laid on all of the CBC,” he said.

[quote]It’s about reputation here and what Rex has done, he has, frankly, I think, sullied the reputation of all CBC journalists by doing that and Peter Mansbridge hasn’t helped particularly in taking money from that source either.[/quote]

CBC defends Murphy

The CBC has defended Murphy’s actions, saying he is a freelance commentator paid to take a “provocative stand” on issues.

In a blog post published earlier this month and updated Thursday, CBC News editor-in-chief Jennifer McGuire said freelancers are given more leeway to express their views.

Full-time staff, however, must abide by an internal policy that states “CBC journalists do not express their own personal opinion because it affects the perception of impartiality and could affect an open and honest exploration of an issue,” she said.

David Suzuki-Remembering Pete Seeger

David Suzuki: Remembering Pete Seeger

David Suzuki-Remembering Pete Seeger
Pete Seeger at a “Farm Aid” concert, joined by Neil Young, Dave Matthews and Willie Nelson

“This machine surrounds hate and forces it to surrender.”

– Words painted on Pete Seeger’s banjo

A man with a banjo can be a powerful force for good. Pete Seeger, who died January 27 at the age of 94, inspired generations of political and environmental activists with songs ranging from “Where Have All the Flowers Gone?” to “Sailing Down My Golden River”.

From the late 1930s until his death, Seeger brought his music to union halls, churches, schools, migrant camps, nightclubs, TV studios, marches and rallies – always inviting audiences to join in. His calling took him from being hauled before the House Un-American Activities Committee in 1955 to being invited to perform at President Barack Obama’s inauguration in 2009.

Inspired by Silent Spring

Like me, he was inspired by Rachel Carson’s 1962 book Silent Spring to become a strong defender of the environment as well as human rights. In both social justice and environmental causes, he believed in the strength of grassroots efforts. As he told the CBC Radio program Ideas:

[quote]The powers that be can break up any big thing they want. They can attack it from the outside. They can infiltrate it and corrupt it from the inside – or co-opt it. But what are they going to do about 10 million little things? They don’t know where to start. Break up three of them and four more like it start up.[/quote]

Seeger and his wife, Toshi, devoted a lot of time to protecting the Hudson River near their home in Beacon, New York. To save the polluted waterway, they raised money to build a sloop, the Clearwater, to take children, teachers and parents sailing. The boat and cleanup efforts have since spawned a science-based environmental education organization and music festival – and led to progress in restoring the river and ridding it of toxic PCBs, pesticides and other chemicals.

Seeger took on fracking in final years

Seeger was also involved in anti-fracking efforts, adding the line, “This land was made to be frack-free” to his late friend Woody Guthrie’s anthem, “This Land Is Your Land”, when he joined Willie Nelson, Neil Young, John Mellencamp and Dave Matthews at a Farm Aid benefit last year.

Like all of us who devote our lives to trying to make the world better, Seeger made mistakes along the way. But he was willing to admit when he was wrong and to change his views.

As a geneticist, I’m fascinated by the built-in need we have for music; it reaches deep within us. The power of a good song to touch us emotionally and rally us to action is nothing short of extraordinary.

Musicians and the environment

And musicians are often the first to donate their time and music to worthy causes. It’s why I’ve had such deep admiration for musicians I’ve worked with and often been lucky enough to call my friends, from Bruce Cockburn and Gordon Lightfoot to Neil Young and Sarah Harmer and the members of Blue Rodeo. Musicians have inspired millions of people with powerful anthems, from Seeger’s rendition of “We Shall Overcome” to John Lennon’s “Imagine.” In recognition of the power of song, the David Suzuki Foundation invited musicians from across the country to contribute to a recording called Playlist for the Planet in 2011.

I recently had the pleasure of joining Neil Young and Diana Krall on their Honour the Treaties tour to raise money and awareness for the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation’s legal battle to protect their traditional lands and rights guaranteed under Treaty 8. As “just a musician”, Young was criticized for having the nerve to speak out and for his harsh words about rampant tar sands development. But, as much as it would be better if the media, public and government paid far more attention to First Nations and their spokespeople, a celebrity with conviction and the ability to communicate through the powerful medium of song – or other forms of artistic expression – can often highlight a struggle in ways few others can.

Like Nelson Mandela, who died in December at age 95, Pete Seeger was a great communicator for whom principles mattered more than anything else. He was a true American and world citizen and we’re better off for the contributions he made during his long life.

With contributions from David Suzuki Foundation Senior Editor Ian Hanington. 

Why Rafe Mair gave Sun and Province a stay of execution

Why Rafe Mair gave Sun and Province a stay of execution


Why Rafe Mair gave Sun and Province a stay of execution

Rafe Mair recently vowed to cancel his Postmedia subscriptions – here’s why he couldn’t pull the trigger.

I have a terrible admission to make. I have to because the bastards would “out” me sooner or later.

Wendy and I didn’t cancel Postmedia’s Sun and Province as we said we would. Not that there wasn’t a great debate on the subject but I prevailed by promising this was the last 4 month period.

The Toronto Globe and Mail came up for suggestion but since it gives us the only real peek at BC affairs, it has a stay of execution.

I read the National Post when I get a freebie, as when I’m in the barber shop. I read it and it looks better than the Globe, but that’s damning with faint praise indeed.

The Globe does have decent BC writers like Mark Hume, Gary Mason and Justine Hunter – plus occasional Gable cartoons. Since it is, after all, a Toronto paper, that’s pretty good coverage of  BC and once in awhile they let our local writers do a column with the big kids from the East.

At least the cartoons are good

The hardest part of letting the Province go is the comic Luann. I have it marked on my computer now so that can be taken care of.

There is only one downer for the Sun, which has no cartoonist and whose columns come from the wheat fields of Saskatchewan – I’ve followed Rex Morgan MD for longer than I can remember and would miss reading that. As for the rest, it’s appropriate use would be an insult to any decent caged bird.

In fact, with the Sun and Province, there is one reason to spend ridiculous sums to have it at the breakfast table –  to know what Vaughn Palmer and Mike Smyth didn’t say and what news the paper didn’t tell us about.

This past week provided some excellent examples of what was not done.

On Saturday, Mike Smyth interviewed Janet Holder, the executive of Enbridge’s BC policy re pipelines and tanker traffic. Then the Sun followed on with a puff piece by Ms. Holder herself.

Shirley Stocker of CKNW first taught me the descriptive term for puff pieces and patty-cake interviews. This term – and remember this was before Bill Clinton – is “corporate blob job”.

Since CKNW leads the media in CPJs, perhaps Shirley, a product of CKNW when it specialized in tough radio, is too embarrassed to use that term any more.

In any case, if covers the crud the Postmedia papers pump out.

A softball for Enbridge

Mike’s “interview” with MS Holder was a classic example of a CBJ. Not one single tough question asked. Not one. Not even a raised eyebrow! This nice little chat should have been run as a paid advertisement – which, in a sense, it was.

Let us not forget that his paper last year pulled a spoof of Enbridge’s new commercial. The animation’s creator, Dan Murphy, plainly stated at the time that the publisher faced heat – via his corporate bosses – from Enbridge, who was just rolling out  a $5 million ad campaign with the Postmedia chain to spruce up its image.

The piece in Sunday’s Sun obviously came from that same CBJ that spawned the Smyth cold porridge.

Prairie columnists, an occasional cartoonist who can’t caricature faces, and corporate blow jobs wherever you look – and the Province is even worse.

Note to Wendy: Hon, I was wrong to press for continued subscriptions but can’t you see that journalists who want to fill in the gaps must know what those gaps are and where it is that news wasn’t printed.