Rafe: Media let Liberals get away with murder on IPPs, now LNG

Construction of a private power project on the Ashlu River (Photo: Range Life)
Construction of a private power project on the Ashlu River (Photo: Range Life)

A flash of anger came over me when Ian Jessup of CFAX 1070, Victoria, asked me to come on his show and talk about so-called independent power producers (IPPs), euphemistically referred known as “run of river”.

No, I sure as hell wasn’t mad at Ian – he’s is one of the few bright lights left in radio who is not afraid to do the tough subjects and to call it like it is. I congratulate CFAX for having the balls to do the show.

What angered me was that no one in the mainstream media has touched this subject from the beginning.

IPPs: a shockingly bad policy for ratepayers, environment

When Gordon Campbell, in 2002, changed the energy policy of the Province, he made it unlawful for BC Hydro to create any more power, except through Site “C” – which had already long been on the books – and decreed that all new power would come from private producers. This led to the most extraordinary results that one gasps when one thinks that the Liberals got away with this without a scratch.

The finance minister of the day, Colin Hansen, published a piece on the Internet outlining all of the benefits of “run of river”, every one of which was an outright falsehood, which I stated and demonstrated publicly, many times. The private companies have ruined the rivers, destroyed fish runs, wiped out much habitat, thus depriving wildlife of their food source, and depleted the water levels dangerously.

If environmental matters don’t concern you, how about this?

BC Hydro has been compelled to buy all the power produced by IPP’s, whether they need it or not, at over 3 times what it would cost them to buy it on the open market and many times more their own cost to produce it. This ruinous policy, uncriticized by the media, is bankrupting the power company you own that used to supply hundreds of millions of dollars yearly to the Treasury.

Can you imagine what the Vancouver Sun and Province, in particular Vaughn Palmer, would have said if this had been the NDP?

The sad part of that question is that timely, tough questions might have stopped the policy in its tracks or at least stopped it from increasing once the damage became obvious.

Getting away with murder

This is not by any means the only failing of the mainstream media. In a broad sense, this Liberal Campbell/Clark  government has got away with blue murder.

Not only have they gotten away with murder, the Postmedia papers, the Vancouver Sun and Province, have done virtually nothing to criticize them from the beginning. There is some criticism in the columns but it is usually muted and confined to one narrow aspect of the issue. This free ride has been even more egregious under Christy Clark.

When was the last time you said, “Hey, Honey, you should see this Sun (or Province) article! They really give Christy (or the Liberals) shit! Palmer/Smyth is brilliant!”?

And how often did you say that when the NDP were in power?

Goverment in bed with shady folks for LNG

Malaysian prime minister promises $36 Billion for BC LNG plant
Embattled Malaysian PM Razak and PM Harper (AP/Lai Seng Sin)

A good example of this is LNG. Because he had no alternative there, Palmer spent a good deal of time and did a reasonable job talking about the inadequacies of Clark’s deal with Petronas. There was, however, no talk about who runs this partnership, namely the Malaysian government, and that it is corrupt from top to bottom with a president now charged with stealing $700,000,000 – a minor peccadillo that’s not taken terribly seriously in Malaysia!

It’s the same with the proposed Woodfibre LNG plant. The owner, Sukanto Tanoto, is, not to put too fine a point on it, a crook plus an environmental catastrophe – facts that somehow have escaped the local media’s attention.

One would have thought that apart from everything else, the management of WFLNG, being the excrement of Enron, would have itself been the matter of considerable journalistic investigation.

One can understand how Clark and her inarticulate henchman Coleman wouldn’t care, considering they’re as dumb as a sack full of hammers, but whatever Postmedia is, it’s not stupid. Are they saying to us that the fact that the owners of our proposed partners are criminals doesn’t matter?

LNG tankers too dangerous for Howe Sound, Fraser

We have demonstrated in this paper that Howe Sound and the Fraser River are far too narrow, by accepted  international standards – indeed, by rules now the law in the US – for LNG tanker traffic. Now, in days of yore, had this been an NDP government, you could be sure that Palmer and Smith would’ve been all over this and the minister involved would’ve had his political life in serious jeopardy. Today, from the mainstream media, zilch!

The federal government has blocked LNG  tankers from plying the East Coast of Canada but can’t wait to have them flooding out of Vancouver and other ports by the hundreds.

Is not this flagrant favouritism of no interest to Vancouver papers, especially the one that bills itself as “Seriously Westcoast …”?

Media’s double standard for Liberals, NDP

The Ministry of Children and Families has fallen not only into disarray but into such a state that our children are actually being seriously damaged. Has the minister, roundly criticized by the courts for her management, or more accurately lack of it, been put under the slightest pressure by the mainstream media to resign?

Of course, no one has to resign under the Liberals, not even a premier who gets jailed for drunken-driving, but you would surely think that Postmedia, especially given their longevity, would be front and centre reminding the government of parliamentary tradition. They sure were good at that in the NDP years!

Let me pause here for a moment to make this point: The NDP years were pathetic. By and large it was probably the worst government, if not BC history, certainly in living memory. The criticism levelled at them in those days by the media was more than justified. My point is that the Campbell/Clark Liberals are not really a hell of a lot better

Credit where credit is due, Vaughn Palmer and Mike Smyth have covered the health scandal reasonably well, though it’s hard to conceive that they could have avoided this issue, what with admitted illegal firings and a suicide. Still, they have covered it and pulled few punches.

I think readers will know that I could go on and on. I would rather ask this question: Why is this so? Why is the mainstream media silent on these major issues, indeed scandals? Where has tough radio gone?

Media and industry partner up

Most of us can remember the NDP days and the preceding ones of Bill Vander Zalm and the day-after-day hell given them by the media, as if it were yesterday.

This was justified. Not in every case and to the extent it took place but, in the event, more than justified by the revelations of utter incompetence in those governments. Those of us who remember that are bound to ask the question, why is the Liberal government exempt from the same treatment?

Until I uncovered the fact that the Province – thus the Sun and the National Post by extension of law as well – are partners with Resource Works, an out-and-out tireless shill for Woodfibre LNG, while learning that Postmedia virtually supports the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP) uncritically, I would not have dared ask this question.

Has Postmedia got some arrangement whereby favourite advertisers are guaranteed good treatment in their newspapers? It has been suggested – and not denied – that the Province has a “backscratching” arrangement with Resource Works, otherwise why would a newspaper take formal sides in a public dispute? I don’t ever recall that happening before.

I acknowledge that were it not for the Resource Works issue and the Postmedia-CAPP matter, this could be regarded as a most irresponsible question. But given the fact that these matters have not been explained, surely it’s a reasonable question to ask.

LNG issues ignored

Let’s just take the LNG issue, bearing in mind the Province’s partnership with Resource Works. When was the last time you saw a serious investigation of LNG, especially the “fracking” that would supply the industry, their contribution to global warming, the dangers involved, and the tanker traffic issue, raised here and, I might add, The Globe & Mail?

When have you seen in our media any discussion, much less a serious one,  about the integrity of the ownership of the LNG companies we’re going to be partners with?

When was the last time you saw any discussion, much less a serious one, about the permitted width of channels and rivers for LNG tankers?

When was the last time you saw any discussion in the mainstream media about the plethora of tankers which will come from proposed pipeline expansions and LNG plants?

Have you seen any discussion about the obvious bias of government environmental commissions, including the National Energy Board, in either of the Postmedia papers? Bear in mind that tougher and fairly-enforced rules are not in the interest of fossil fuel companies. An energy expert who has headed up three public power companies and another who was President of ICBC resign from the NEB hearings into Kinder Morgan, yet where the hell are the once-vaunted media critics?

I have already mentioned the indefensible indifference of the media press to the IPP scandal, with its consequent environmental catastrophe and bankrupting of BC Hydro.

I cannot and do not say that there is some sort of arrangement, either formal or nudge-nudge-wink-wink, between the mainstream media and their advertisers – however, I can say this: All of the above and much more sure as hell raise questions that the media must answer.                                         

Many long years ago, there was a lawsuit in England where a barrel of flour rolled out of a second-story window and flattened a passerby. The flour company claimed that the victim could not prove its negligence.

The learned judges, however, stated that there are some circumstances where there is no other obvious explanation but negligence and that they onus is on people with barrels of flour to explain why one rolled out a window. This is called Res Ipsa Loquitur “the thing speaks for itself”.

Under the circumstances, are the media in British Columbia not subject to Res Ipsa Loquitur and obliged to defend themselves?            


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.

11 thoughts on “Rafe: Media let Liberals get away with murder on IPPs, now LNG

  1. Hi Rafe. I enjoy your writing and your facts. Spice and carbs, nice combo. Regulator Watch is another group that has a cozy relationship with Post Media. I’ve learned to watch for the tiny statement at the end of each posted article: “posted for commercial purposes”. The act is not that horrid, full page paid-for ads for various opinions are done all the time. The real crime is that these Regulator Watch pieces have all the trappings of “real” editorial pieces. They look like real news. I am taking your advice to heart by looking for other sources for the news. This is just standard operating procedure for me anyway and should be for every human on the planet. That is to be a critical and skeptical consumer of anything one reads or watches. Ask questions about who created the stuff, who paid them, what are their credentials, what is their angle, do they care enough about their long term credibility to accept criticism and corrections and to cite their sources. How are their writing skills? This is maybe minor but sentence fragments, poor spelling, bad subject verb agreement etc are signs that the writer either does not know or does not care enough. The danger is that their attention to proofs and facts may also be slack. Keep on barking.

  2. The good news is that there is a glimmer of pushback by those that have voice to the corrupting of our media. Rafe and this article are a welcome example. Glenn Greenwald of The Intercept is another example. He is absolutely merciless in shredding these sellouts, be they individual journalists or venerable newspapers, and because he has a broad international following flowing from his coverage of the Snowden documents on mass surveillance in the Guardian and The Intercept, he has put the issue squarely on the map. Others, here and there, are now too taking issue with what is occurring under the guidance of ‘corporate media’.

    Let’s hope!

  3. Malaysia does not have a President. It is Prime Minister. If you want to be critical, at least be accurate.

  4. Potentially, explosive LNG tankers, LNG pipelines and LNG terminals have to be kept away from populated areas. Many people could be killed.

  5. Well Kim, I couldn’t wait for May 2013, and look what happened. I took my rented wheel chair and my $25/month sign, to no avail. We can’t just ‘wait for Oct19th’.
    I must commend Rafe and his one man band. Where is the outrage of the younger generation, the ones that are going to bear the brunt of the pain for this obscene degradation. I don’t relish seeing it, but they should take to the streets in objection to the obvious theft and corruption behind these decisions, and the lack of accountability.
    I’m mad as hell! and will probably still be after October 19th!
    (Think I still have a chance of running as a liberal candidate?)

  6. I am ashamed of my provincial and federal governments. Mark Twain and I quote,
    “Politicians like diapers, should be changed, often, for the same reason.” I am horrified and fear for the despicable legacy we are leaving our children and grandchildren with. Wake up BC and Canada. Please ensure all young adults and FN are registered to vote. I can’t wait for Oct19th.

Comments are closed.