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.      


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.

9 thoughts on “Postmedia’s alternate version of energy realities

  1. I wrote to Vaughn Palmer at the Sun last year with information about Petronas and Sukanto Tanoto, regarding their disgusting human rights abuses and history of environmental destruction. I included links to evidence of a pipeline explosion, that has now been revealed in the Petronas internal audit. Vaughn blew me off, saying most energy companies are assholes so what are you going to do? I remember when he was a real reporter.

  2. I think back to Jack Scott, Barry Mather, Al Fotheringham, Jack Wasserman. Denny Boyd, Eric Nicol, Paul St. Pierre, Marjorie Nichols, Jim Hume, Vaughn Palmer (then), Allan Garr and in radio Webster, Burns, Murphy just to name a few and I want to weep.
    Without those kind of journalists there is no free speech and without that we have no demcracy and without that we have Stephen Harper.

    1. Jack Webster is spinning in his grave every time another pr shill for politicians and or big business gets one of his awards……

  3. Please do you think we believe what we read in the media. Can we believe what politicians say the next thing you will tell me that there working for the good of the people and not the Corporation’s. Please this is were the rats of the world work not in the real world. They don’t care about the environment you think if they did people in China would still be wearing mask to go to school no they care about cheap labor, money, power and greed.
    And as long as you have people that will say yes sir they will rule.To bad I hope the next generation can get it right and solve some of the miss we have left them.
    In the mean time get ready to eat made food from the laboratories and breathing apparatuses to go outside.Thank’s BIG BUSINESS FOR YOUR CONTRBUTION AND YOUR FAIR AND JUST MESS YOU HAVE LEFT US I HOPE YOU SLEEP WELL

  4. This is one of the lessons learned from the war fronts of the past couple of decades. First you embed the press, then you go to battle. I’m like you, I wonder how the free press feels about being embedded.

  5. Very well said Rafe.
    Without sounding like a paranoid conspiracy theorist may I also offer an opinion.

    If Postmedias plummeting subsciption rates are any indication.
    The public isnt “buying” what they’re “selling”.
    Millions upon millions of dollars squandered to “get the message out” that these oil industries are good for us.. All while oil is plummeting in price. The average person has become quite jaundiced in their view of ALL media…Print, electronic, whatever. They have all prostituted themselves to the almighty advertising dollar and the truth be damned.

    Personally, I havent pruchased a newspaper in years, I rarely watch more than 20 minutes of any tv “news” hour. and I pay close attention to who is advertising on the newshour ( it seems like REMAX has got Global “locked in” for the past few years which explains Global TV’s endless pro real estate stories).

    I , for one, will not shed a tear when the last “fishwrapper” is vomitted out of the Pacifc Press advertisemnt machine and the building is closed, locked and chained by order of a bailiff’s notice.
    Propaganda, spin, lies, falsehoods, etc,etc,etc. is alive and well in todays media.

    Goebbels would be proud.

  6. Thank you Rafe. You are constantly providing us with facts….but the corruption remains. There was a time when politicians would be run out of town for fraud and corruption. Now they’re respected by their peers. They dare anyone to do anything about it.

    Listening to the Leg sessions the other day when the topic was Site C Dam Minister Bennett mocked the legitimate questions from the NDP. He was mocking democracy at the same time. We’ve come a long way….the wrong way.

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