FOCUS Magazine By Briony Penn, December 2012
The Canadian Heavy Oil Association hopes a “factspill” will persuade British Columbians to support their pipelines.
Ian Anderson, CEO of Kinder Morgan, recently confessed at the annual fall business conference of the Canadian Heavy Oil Association in Calgary that “what I have come to understand is that consultation means something very different from handing out a bunch of baseball caps and nice dinners.”
Dubbed by the Calgary Herald as a new breed of oilman with “hard-won wisdom,” Anderson admitted that those in the oil patch have misjudged and mischaracterized British Columbian’s opposition to their pipelines and tankers.
Distinguishing himself from previous “handing-out-baseball-cap” pipeline promoters, Anderson told his audience that he’s “a listener” who is setting aside two years and 20 percent of his time for consultations about his company’s upgrade of the Trans Mountain pipeline that runs 1150 kilometres from Edmonton to Burnaby. Anderson told his colleagues: “What this industry needs is certainty, and certainty means: Not when will I get a ‘yes,’ but when will I get an answer?”
Unfortunately, it’s still not really clear that he understands what the question is—or who he is asking. If the question is: “‘Yes’ or ‘No’ to the upgrading of the pipeline?”, the people of British Columbia have already given their answer. Yet his company has just begun a heavy promotional tour, hitting Victoria the first week of December, leading one to believe that Anderson still thinks the question is: “How much will it take for British Columbians to say yes?” Which suggests a continuing failure to accept BC’s informed opposition to the Albertan proposition of ramping up tar sand production, exporting bitumen through our mountains and waters, and exacerbating climate change…
Unsurprisingly, this has only intensified the scrutiny of the detractors. And detractors, according to the most recent poll, represent almost two out of every three British Columbians.
It is this statistic that caused the members of the Heavy Oil group back in Calgary, who typically come together to share knowledge on new technologies and economics, to move into a new frontier, as evidenced by their speakers and topics. CBC anchor Peter Mansbridge gave the kick-off keynote address on “Exploring the National Mood through Key Social and Political Issues.” Kinder Morgan CEO Anderson was the keynote speaker the second day, amongst panelists of sympathetic newspaper people, Enbridge VPs, and a new face from British Columbia: Brian Falconer of Raincoast Conservation Foundation and an intervenor on marine safety in the Enbridge pipeline process.
I asked Falconer why he was invited to participate in the Heavy Oil Conference. He said: “To dispel the myth that the opposition to pipelines was made up of a few bands of First Nations and uninformed British Columbians stirred up by American socialist billionaires set on damaging the Canadian oil industry—and to explain why it wasn’t going to go away.”
Falconer’s half-hour speech covered, amongst other things, the lack of credibility in Enbridge reports. He cited many examples of marine safety elements, from the smoothing of data on storm events to Enbridge statements like “fog on the coast generally only lasts for a few hours at a time,” which prompted outbursts of laughter in coastal communities during public presentations. Falconer finished with a suggestion that Canadians have Pat Daniels, ex-CEO of Enbridge, and Joe Oliver, minister of natural resources, to thank for a national conversation about energy and the speed of resource exploitation—and who benefits—within the larger context of climate change. British Columbians are leading that discussion, and Falconer told the group that, “All the Northern Gateway process did was insult people and solidify their opposition to it.”
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