An oil tanker carries Tar Sands bitumen past Stanley Park (Paul Manly, David Maidman)

Kinder Morgan’s Massive Pipeline, Tanker Expansion Plans (Finally) Making Headlines


How wonderful it is to have such breaking news fanatics as the Vancouver Sun and the Vancouver Province. The Sun on Friday the 13th carried a headline story of how Kinder Morgan is planning to increase its pipeline capacity to 850,000 barrels per day at a cost of $5 Billion. The Province with a breathlessness usually reserved for the discovery of a three headed toad in Tasmania, told us this:

Kinder Morgan Energy Partners gave the green light Thursday to its pipeline expansion, which will more than double the current amount of crude oil flowing from Alberta to Burnaby to 850,000 barrels per day, up from the current 300,000 bpd.

The quantity is about 40 per cent more than what the Houston-based company had originally proposed. And it will see annual tanker traffic jump from about 70 tankers per year to 360 to 365 tankers per year, based on one tanker visiting port per day, said Kinder Morgan.

This story is nearly two years old. When a downtown accountant noticed, out his office window, a huge increase in tanker traffic – following Kinder Morgan’s quiet increase of Tar Sands bitumen through its Trans Mountain Pipeline to Burnaby from 200,000 bpd to 300,000 – the matter was the subject of a full Vancouver City Council meeting and investigation in July 2010 (scroll down to story, “Misinformation Given to Vancouver City Council).

Of course, back then the Vancouver media hadn’t noticed fish farms, private river destruction, assaults on agricultural land, schemes ruining the environment and bankrupting BC Hydro or the Enbridge Pipeline and the proposed tanker traffic either. That may, the saints be praised, be changing.

For the past decade, the Postmedia papers in Vancouver have liked to ponder environmental matters for a year or two before dealing with them. Can’t be in a rush, you know – that tends to be irresponsible; far better to offer op-ed  space to fish farmers, private rivers despoilers and the corporate interests that promote the world’s biggest single-source polluter, the Tar Sands, and their proposed disasters in BC on land and sea. That the editor of the Sun op-ed page is a former Fellow of the Fraser Institute has nothing to do with this policy, of course.

One hates to make too general a statement on such matters but perhaps the Newspapers would tell how much any of these subjects have been covered by, let’s say, Vaughn Palmer or Mike Smyth.

There was a time, well within the memory of many readers, when the media in Vancouver truly held the establishment’s feet to the fire. No statements were taken as unchallengeable when delivered by big business or government. The Vancouver Sun and Province were known for their tough journalists as was BCTV. This certainly was the case when I was in government – a long time ago – but as recently as the last NDP government it prevailed. One remembers with admiration the work Mr. Palmer did on the “fast ferries issue”. Since the arrival of the Campbell/Clark government, the plain fact is that government and big business have had even better than a free ride – the editorial policy has supported business and government with nary a tough question.

My old station, CKNW, which was once on the cutting edge of skepticism of the establishment’s statements, now has Vanilla Bill in charge of the morning spot and now has a 10 share of the market when his predecessor had double that audience. Even the CBC, which is scarcely known for hard hitting radio, beats the CKNW morning show.
If I had performed that way I would have been cashiered along with the Program Manager and senior management.

Yes, times have changed and how ironic it is that this happens at a time the Supreme Court of Canada in the case of Simpson v. CKNW, Mair et al made it much more difficult for politicians and other prominent people to maintain a successful defamation action. In addition to showing the statement was untrue they must now demonstrate malice.

You, the public of BC, have been swindled every bit as much as if you’d played 3 Card Monte at the fair. You pay, through subscriptions and advertising revenues, for a gigantic crock of crap being delivered to your doorstep and living room.

What especially outrages me is that once a year the media fills itself with praise, basking in the reflected glory of the late Jack Webster at the annual dinner held in his name. I knew Jack Webster as one who barely survived his interviews, as a competitor then a colleague and I can tell you if he heard and read one day’s coverage of current events he would be thoroughly ashamed of those who carry on what were once honourable outlets of hard hitting journalism.

BUT…are times changing? There is evidence that the mainstream media is covering the environmental corporate/political atrocities being inflicted on British Columbia. Meetings of First Nations are being covered and Damien Gillis’ videos and footage are being shown (watch these recent Enbridge stories on CBC’s the National and Global TV). Especially encouraging is coverage by local papers including those controlled by the mainstream media companies. The Victoria Times-Colonist has been under the parent company’s radar and has, for some months now, challenged those in corporations and governments which would continue and expand their takeover and destruction of our province.

Given my history with the media I don’t think one can say “let bygones be bygones”, but all of us can join in the real battle.

The media have more obligations than just fairly and thoroughly presenting the news – they have a traditional duty to speak for the audience they seek. Until the beginning of the Gordon Campbell/Christy government they did just that. Critics of the “establishment” abounded. For example, it was Vaughn Palmer that almost single-handed exposed the “fast ferries” issue that played a major role in the 2001 election.

What the media faces is a simple question: do you accept as a duty the obligation to defend our wonderful province against the corporate/political assault on our environment?

While those who fight fish farms, agricultural land degradation, private power schemes, pipelines and exposing our shores to sure destruction can’t be expected to suddenly embrace those who have been enablers of the corporate assault on our province; we can and will get behind and speak kindly of a media which has columnists and broadcasters who will speak for British Columbia!

I sense a willingness to do just this and it is welcome indeed. 


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

4 thoughts on “Kinder Morgan’s Massive Pipeline, Tanker Expansion Plans (Finally) Making Headlines

  1. Back in my youth I worked in local radio as a reporter.
    Eventually I landed a job working in a satellite office feeding news and sports reports down the phone line to the main news room, unsupervised. Being on my own in a new town I asked my News Director what exactly it was my job to do. I’ll never forget, “A reporters primary duty is to Comfort the afflicted, and afflict the comfortable.”
    I don’t know who said it first, but maybe it’s time to reprint the posters and send them to all the newsrooms in BC. Webster would be proud.

  2. Now I understand why Rafe is so inaccurate so often – facts are apparently not necessarily first priority: “The media have more obligations than just fairly and thoroughly presenting the news – they have a traditional duty to speak for the audience they seek.” So this implies he has to guess what “the audience he seeks” (not even theone he has) thinks, and represent that guess. Sure gives me confidence in the veracity of his writings. When I see so many of his articles on a given subject are ALL bad news, and zero good news, I opine that his writings are not balanced.

    From Kinder Morgan’s Massive Pipeline, Tanker Expansion Plans (Finally) Making Headlines
    Written by Rafe Mair Sunday, 15 April 2012 13:44

  3. Rafe I am not sure what you think of KM’s plans.Persoanally if I had to choose between Northern Gateway and KM expansion I would choose KM expansion in a heartbeat. Why? Because the last time I looked the TMPL right of way followed the road/rail from Edmonton /Jasper/Kamloops and Burnaby (easy access); it already exists (looping is easier than new construction); and the route out to sea from Burrard Inlet seems alot safer than the Hecate Straight and seem s to be travelled safely by a large volume of shipping already.KM expansion seems to be the least of three evils (N Gateway, Keystone and KM expansion) so we should be careful if we reject it and somehow help N Gateway forward.

  4. Why were the bigger conservation groups not being proactive about Kinder-Morgan two years ago? If we all knew about it, back then, why did we not make a big stink about it, back then? All I ever received as a answer to this “old news” a couple years ago was: “We are working on a protest”… and then, nothing! Now may be too late… 🙁 Reactivity is just stupid.

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