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Campaign On Enbridge Pipeline In Vancouver: Industry Vs. The People

With a deeply unpopular $6.5 billion Northern Gateway project at risk, Enbridge is betting heavily on ads and a door-to-door corporate campaign to sway residents in a small northern coastal B.C. community to “vote yes” for its oil sands pipeline project.

“It’s mind boggling how they’re pouring so much into [the Enbridge campaign]… trying to influence a plebiscite here in little Kitimat on the north coast of B.C.,” said Murray Minchin of Douglas Channel Watch.

The pipeline would terminate in this community, gushing half a million barrels of Alberta bitumen per day, onto 220 super tankers per year bound for Asia.

The company’s blue and white “vote yes” political signs are up, local TV and radio and newspaper ads have been bought, and doors are being knocked on by corporate canvassers.

Enbridge canvassers 3

“It’s very much feels like a municipal election and everybody has the right to do what they want to promote their cause,” said Kitimat’s Mayor Joanne Monaghan on Monday.

“That’s democracy.”

But surreal though it may seem, there are no political parties in this electoral race. On one side, there’s Enbridge, financed by oil sands developers and Chinese-state oil giants Sinopec and Nexen. And on the other side, there’s thinly-budgeted-volunteer groups, meeting in living rooms to strategize and make road signs.

“And as quickly as we put up signs, Enbridge started putting up their signs, right besides us,” said Lucy McRae, with Douglas Channel Watch on Tuesday.

Controversially, the district said there are no rules on campaign spending, and “extremely new residents” living just 30 days in the community, are eligible to vote.

Member of Parliament Nathan Cullen said Enbridge’s ad budget is likely in the “hundreds of thousands” of dollars, he said from Ottawa on Monday.

Though it’s not clear if an Enbridge win in the April 12th non-binding plebiscite would advance the pipeline, it would certainly help the company’s embattled PR efforts, hammered for years by hostile opposition from local governments, fishing associations, First Nations, environmental groups, hunters — even TV stars.

Tense Enbridge meetings

With tensions high, an Enbridge’s “voter information” meeting turned sour at the local River Lodge senior’s recreation centre on Friday.

A trio of Enbridge staffers, including Donny van Dyk, were presenting to seniors on the economic benefits and safety of the pipeline. (A request to obtain the presentation was not responded to by the company.) But among the crowd of 40, hecklers interrupted and blasted hard questions at Enbridge. Some were asked to tone it down.

Terrace retiree Anne Hill described the corporate presentation as one-sided.

“I thought it was a snow job. The three people from Enbridge said nothing negative could ever happen in Kitimat. It was all positive spin. An oil spill would never happen, that sort of thing.”

When someone also asked how many oil spills the company has had, Hill said Enbridge staff reported they “didn’t have that information.”

“So I quickly Googled it on my iPhone and told [the crowd] that it was 800 spills, as of 2010,” said Hill.

Enbridge did not respond to repeated requests for comment, made by phone, e-mail and in this Tweet:

Screen Shot 2014-03-28 at 8.40.11 AM

A Kitimat reporter said Enbridge is not responding to that outlet’s media requests either.

Enbridge’s executive VP and poster-woman, Janet Holder, has long stated she wants an “open dialogue” with British Columbians about the benefits of her company’s project.

Corporate Canvassers

Resident Manny Arruda spotted a pair of Enbridge canvassers walking up to his home on Friday.  But after feeling “inundated” with Enbridge ads and phone calls recently, the industrial safety supervisor decided to turn the tables.  Arruda had his friend ready a camera to take photos of the canvassers.

Bothersome for Arruda, the canvassers already knew his name.

“I was just kind of taken aback that they knew [who I was.]”

“They are infiltrating [my] life – they’re on the TV, radio, Internet, phoning you, and now just showing up at your door.”

“I know they’ve been phoning everyone.  So to me, that tells me that the numbers are not there for them, and they’ve got to go and blitz it.”

Arruda said similar industrial projects, for Liquid Natural Gas proposals, did not create such a communications stir.

“If you’re that good of a corporate citizen, you should not have to inundate and brain wash us.”

Arruda said the company’s promise of 60 odd Kitimat jobs does not substantiate the decades of oil spill risks at land and sea.

The two canvassers spotted the photos being taken of them, and promptly left.

Other company staff hitting the pavement is the smiling, coastal Aboriginal and Community Relations officer, Donny van Dyk, as well as “big guns” such as Enbridge’s manager of engineering, Ray Doering, and Colin Kingsley, the former mayor Prince George and a known project promoter.

Donny van Dyk Enbridge coastal Aboriginal and Community Relations officer 2_0-500x557

Temporary Workers Not Allowed to Vote

At a Kitimat council meeting Monday night, citizens complained about the District’s burgeoning temporary workers being allowed to vote on a pipeline that would exist, long after they left the community.  The fear was, their huge numbers could affect the plebiscite’s outcome.

“The construction camp for Rio Tinto Alcan is easily more than 1,000 workers.  It’s within the District of Kitimat.  Are there are going to be bus loads of people coming from a construction camp to influence what’s going to happen here for generations to come?” asked Minchin.

“It’s a scary prospect.”

Kitimat Deputy Clerk, Shirley Boudreault, clarified Wednesday that temporary work camp employees will not be permitted to use the camp as residency to qualify to vote.  They will not be eligible.

Enbridge is advertising two Public Open Houses at the Kitimat Rod & Gun Club on April 1 and 8 for citizens to learn more about the project.

A spokesperson for the club said the meeting is a “private affair” and they have nothing to do with it.

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