The Enbridge Pipeline – it’s all about PR now


Today is dedicated to the 51% the polls say could be swayed by evidence and support the Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline proposal.

To recap, The pipeline proposed runs 1,100 kms. through the Rockies, the Rocky Mountain Trench, through the Coast Range getting to the ocean at Kitimat thence by tanker through the Douglas Channel to China. This is some of the roughest terrain in the world and Douglas Channel is an extremely dangerous waterway.

The pipeline would pass over 1000 rivers and streams. many of them critical to our salmon runs.

The issue is not whether or not there will be spills for we know that for certainty – in fact we know by Enbridge’s own documents that they have more than a spill per week. In short, the mathematics of statistics tells us spills on land and sea are inevitable.

Earlier in the week we heard from Enbridge that bitumen is the same as ordinary crude when it’s spilled, as if that would make everything OK.

We are now seeing the public relations world at work. I know something about the philosophy behind Public Relations companies and their siamese twin, the advertising company. I have done some work for a large PR firm and saw lots of advertising flacks at work when I was in government. If I were to say that these people told lies they would rise as one in protest. OK, they don’t tell lies in the same way Bill Clinton didn’t lie when he said he had never had sex with Monica Lewinsky.

If you want to observe the the ethics of the industry, go to a Third World Country and look at their advertisements for tobacco companies. It will remind you of North America in the 50s with the modern equivalent of “More Doctors Smoke Camels Than Any Other Cigarette”. Take a look, for example, at Shell Oil ads, then remember their record in Nigeria where they have the government bought and paid for and are generally believed to have had Ken Saro-Wiwa, the activist and journalist, murdered by the state.

I am not suggesting that Enbridge has contracts out on anyone, just that the industry they employ, and the PR people on staff, are in the same business as the giant PR firm Hill and Knowlton, famous for tobacco ads and making the 1984 Union Carbide’s disaster in Bhopal India appear as if they had conferred a benefit on the local population – well, not quite, but you get my drift.

We’ve seen evidence of this in the now famous cartoon Enbridge put out showing the Rockies and Coast Range mountains as pimples and deleting all those troublesome islands in Douglas Channel.

The spin now is, of course, that bitumen, the gunk from the tar sands, is no more toxic or different to clean up than crude oil. Not only is that bull shit, it’s a typical PR way of making the bad look good by comparing it to something else not quite so bad. It’s the PR way of “bait and switch”. It is hoped that the public will accept that bitumen is no worse than crude, heave a sigh of relief saying thank God, I was afraid that bitumen was really bad for the environment.

I write this piece today to newcomers to this issue to warn them that the pipeliners and tanker people have their PR and advertising folks in action.

It is well that we remember, as we enter the corporate crap phase of this issue, just what corporations are all about. Their mandate is a simple one – make money for shareholders. It is not part of their mandate to provide decent paying jobs, workplace safety or protection of the environment. To the extent that they do these things it is what they’ve been forced to do by market forces or governments.

One need only look again at Third World countries and see how companies like Shell, Rio Tinto or The Reynolds Corporation operate when they are free from government rules (usually because they have bought off the governments).

I’m no communist or socialist just a realist who, as an octogenarian, has seen quite a bit of life’s truisms pass before his eyes.

Here is something you can take to the bank – if Enbridge tells the truth about any part of their policy it’s only by accident or it’s in its interest to do so. They couldn’t care less about British Columbia, its fish and wildlife or its wilderness.

The environmental concerns of the people of British Columbia are of no concern to the company.

We’d all better understand this if we want to keep our beautiful and bountiful province intact for generations to come for whom we hold it all in trust.


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

1 thought on “The Enbridge Pipeline – it’s all about PR now

  1. More politicians drink Alberta tailings pond water than any other polluted water. ‘ITS GRRrreat’ says Pipeline Joe Oliver, as does anti-environ-mental ministroni Peter Kent, flying over British Columbia enroute to a summer home in China. Try it mixed with a wicked shot of strychnine & bitumen .. Make up your own name for the cocktail. The TAR SANDER, the WOLF Whacker, The Frumious FRACKER, The Dil-Bitter.. Can we have a tray of STRIP MINERS, thanks.. and some SNAKE CHRISTY’S on the ROCKS.. What ? There’s no BC oysters today ? Ever ? To say the salmon is smoked is like how our coast is toast. Its better in BC.. come see our oily whales ! See the tall timber on its way to China ! Be sure to buy some rain forest in a bottle.. its such a cool souvenir. Be the first to have a spirit bear memorial coin collection from the Harper Mint ! Order online – limited offer .. and that’s NOT ALL ! We are going to add a tiny get stuffed Stephen Harper doll at no extra cost ! And.. !! We are going to give the first three callers a Trip To The Calgary Stampede !! With (you guessed it !) Minister of Fisheries & Dead Salmon, Keith Ashfield.. !! AND .. Ezra Levant and special guest, Kathryn Hammond !

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