“In defence of oil industry”: Sun editorial shows Postmedia’s colours


In defence of oil industry- Shameless Sun editorial shows Postmedia's colours

[quote]We will work with CAPP (Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers) to amplify our energy mandate and to be a part of the solution to keep Canada competitive in the global marketplace. The National Post will undertake to leverage by all means editorially, technically and creatively to further this critical conversation.

-Douglas Kelly, Publisher, National Post[/quote]

The National Post is, of course, the flagship of the Postmedia chain of newspapers, Canada’s largest, which includes the Vancouver Sun and the Vancouver Province. This statement of policy by Mr. Kelly was followed by lengthy memoranda of agreement as to just how Postmedia and CAPP would cooperate.

In addition to this agreement, we have the formal partnership between the Province and LNG lobby Resource Works, set up by a former long-time senior editor of the Vancouver Sun to support and indeed shill for Woodfibre LNG – the highly controversial plant proposed for Squamish. With the Province being wholly owned by Postmedia, we can say that this partnership, along with the one with CAPP, is with the parent company.

Caught red-handed

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

Since I uncovered and published this information here some months ago, I have been watching both local papers for evidence of the consequences of this unseemly marriage. This is no simple task because I hardly expected either paper to be honest and upfront about it, so had to look for distortions which are not always easy to demonstrate. What is even more difficult is determining what the papers failed to print as being unhelpful to their clients. That both of these matters occurred was pretty clear – it was actually pinning it down with hard proof that was difficult. Any damned fool, including this one, could see that the papers were remarkably easy on all aspects of fossil fuel production.

One looked in vain for editorials adverse in interest to the oil and gas industry and, of course, there were no columns to that effect. At the same time, there were constant columns by the Fraser Institute, the Canadian Taxpayers Federation and other well-heeled neo-con apologists for industry.

Well, the other day, the chickens came home to roost and I refer you to the Vancouver Sun editorial page – Thursday, February 25, 2016. The headline reads: IN DEFENCE OF OIL INDUSTRY.

Allow me to read from the editorial – taken from the online version of the editorial, published Feb. 24, with the headline, “New campaign in support of Canada’s oil industry a worthy undertaking”:

[quote]The nation’s energy sector is faltering, not just because of weaker global oil prices — inevitably a temporary situation — but because it gets a bad rap from activists and others who do not seem to have noticed the environmental advances the industry has made nor that its products continue to be in high demand.

And so, it comes as welcome news that a campaign is being launched to better present the industry’s case. Oil Respect, sponsored with “a very modest” budget supplied by the Calgary-based Canadian Association of Oilwell Drilling Contractors, “is about the facts, respect for workers, respect for the environment and respect for an industry that has done so much to provide Canadians with jobs, government services, and a higher standard of living.”

The campaign’s sponsors want the public to start defending the sector through petitions, social media and appeals to politicians. It wants the politicians to stand up more strongly for energy “development and transportation via pipelines, both across Canada and for export to new markets outside our borders”.[/quote]

Later, it mentions its partner Resource Works as promoting resource-related industries. Allow me to digress because you will remember Resource Works stated in the beginning that they were doing no such thing but simply bringing individuals and groups in the community into civilized conversation with one another, blah blah blah. Truth is not a big deal with these guys.

Failure to disclose

Why Rafe Mair gave Sun and Province a stay of execution
The Vancouver Sun and Province building

It’s considered common decency for anyone in a formal debate to state any special interest they might have in the subject matter. If a person was asked to debate as to whether or not we should bring in stricter laws about banks and did not tell you that he was a bank president making big bucks, you’d obviously be shocked and thereafter have a difficult time believing anything that bank had to say. The same rule of honourable debating applies even to newspapers.  Even large, smug chains. Yes, even the largest chain in the country.

It’s not my position that newspapers can’t have opinions. I wish they didn’t and in a better world they wouldn’t and would just give us unbiased news. But they have expressed opinions for a lot further back than I can remember and have always editorially supported a political party at election time.

It’s one thing, however, to brand yourself as a Liberal, Conservative, NDP or Green sympathizer, but quite another to secretly have a written deal with one of the parties to support them at all times. In the latter case, which is here, you become utterly untrustworthy in all things.

Upon the failure of anyone else to disclose their interest when debating a public issue and a newspaper editor found out, you can imagine the stern lecture he would give the poor miscreant in the next day’s lead editorial. Newspaper editors are very good at spotting and condemning evil in others.

A matter of trust

No matter what Postmedia does, I can’t imagine that any Canadian citizen with an ounce of brains is going to trust anything they say about the fossil fuel industry henceforth.

Rafe: How does Oil-boosting Postmedia boss get into news Hall of Fame?
Paul Godfrey (Samja Frkovic/Flickr/Victoria Rose)

Lest you think that they are just being good public advocates for common sense let’s go back to that editorial again. The Vancouver Sun, hence Postmedia, supports politicians standing up more strongly for “energy development and for pipelines to export the sector’s products to new markets”. Tell me, Mr. Editor – and, while you’re at it, Paul V. Godfrey, CM, President and Chief Executive Officer of Postmedia – does this mean that Postmedia doesn’t support the Paris Agreements and, in fact, that we should increase our use and consumption of fossil fuels and, of course, export more and more of them so that those countries famous for throwing the noxious crap into the atmosphere have more fuel to work with? (You might remember, Mr. Godfrey as the president who, while laying off hundreds of Postmedia staff last year in order to cut back on costs, pocketed just under $1 million in bonuses for himself).

What this all comes down to is credibility. None of us are close to perfect and we all make mistakes. Postmedia, far from being perfect, not only makes mistakes but makes them deliberately as part of corporate policy. They then pass themselves off under the high moral precepts of journalism to the public.

Let me conclude with this: Would you personally pay hard cash to the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers to buy a newspaper they put out, examining in detail, for your edification, the fossil fuel industry?

Well, in fact, that’s precisely what you do when you buy the Vancouver Sun, the Province, or, of course, the flagship National Post.

Sic transit gloria mundi.


About Rafe Mair

Rafe Mair, LL.B, LL.D (Hon) a B.C. MLA 1975 to 1981, was Minister of Environment from late 1978 through 1979. In 1981 he left politics for Talk Radio becoming recognized as one of B.C.'s pre-eminent journalists. An avid fly fisherman, he took a special interest in Atlantic salmon farms and private power projects as environmental calamities and became a powerful voice in opposition to them. Rafe is the co-founder of The Common Sense Canadian and writes a regular blog at rafeonline.com.

10 thoughts on ““In defence of oil industry”: Sun editorial shows Postmedia’s colours

  1. “NDP leader John Horgan criticized (new BC Hydro CEO) McDonald’s appointment, saying her time as Campbell’s deputy minister made her an architect of the clean energy and self-sufficiency policies that have left BC Hydro immersed in debt and problems.

    “They created the mess, Ms. McDonald was there at ground zero and I just don’t think it’s the right choice,” Horgan said.”


    She’s the CEO of BC Hydro currently pushing Site C dam.

    Part of the Site C plan is to provide backup for IPP power.

    Horgan is talking about the Clean Energy Act, which exempts Site C, and other things, from being cancelled by the BCUC, see Sec 7:




  2. While it is fair to attack any backroom deals that Postmedia might have made with the CAPP it is simply nonsense to somehow expect that Canada’s oil industry should simply wither away and somehow disappear, Canada has a great resource in oil and it can and should develop and export that resource so that we can better develop and support our economic well being. Better to stick to the terms and environmental protections surrounding further development – both are simply not mutually exclusive as many might claim.

  3. Well stated Rafe! I have not bought or looked at one of these papers for more than a decade. The local Black Press rag is no better but at least for a five minute read at breakfast it is free.

  4. As a subscriber to The Economist magazine for many years I have always been impressed by their objectivity and their unfailing “duty” to report at the beginning of any article where there is a percieved conflict of interest to report their possible “conflict”.

    Typically, even on that “paragon of virture” the 6pm Gobbell News they usually mention if they have an ownership “connection” with a story…….

    That being said.

    Reporting a potential conflict of interest is common sense and it allows the reporter to absolve or deflect any impression of impropriety.

    Unfortunately the Sun and Province arent even worth wrapping our dwindling salmon population in……..time to line the bottom of an endangered, illegally smuggled exotic birds’ cage with their advertisement car and house “newsprint”………

  5. Thank you for your great reporting on this ongoing problem. I am a die-hard 55 year old newspaper reader but am sick and tired of the bias I read. Never thought I would say it but I am going to cancel my subscription to the Vancouver Sun and Province.

    Thank you to all who contribute to online papers like the Common Sense Canadian and Tyee. You give me hope that we can make this a better world.

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