Enbridge launches multimillion-dollar ad campaign to combat B.C. pipeline opposition

Warrior Publications. May 29:

Enbridge launches multimillion-dollar ad campaign to combat B.C. pipeline opposition

Enbridge Inc. said Tuesday it is launching a multimillion-dollar advertising campaign in British Columbia promoting its Northern Gateway pipeline project in response to stiffer opposition than it anticipated over the $5.5-billion Alberta-to-Kitimat proposal.

By Gordon Hamilton, Vancouver Sun May 29, 2012

Enbridge Inc. said Tuesday it is launching a multimillion-dollar advertising campaign in British Columbia promoting its Northern Gateway pipeline project in response to stiffer opposition than it anticipated over the $5.5-billion Alberta-to-Kitimat proposal.

“You are going to see a much higher visibility for Enbridge over the next few days. In newspapers, in television and online,” said Paul Stanway, manager of Northern Gateway communications for Enbridge. “It’s become quite apparent that the debate has become a provincewide issue.”

The same day Enbridge announced its campaign, which the company said will cost several million but less than $5 million, Greenpeace activists hung an anti-pipeline banner from the Lions Gate Bridge.

Cosmetics retailer LUSH also joined the anti-Enbridge pipeline campaign by posting “Stop Enbridge” signs in its windows. LUSH is urging customers at its 44 Canadian stores to register their opposition to the pipeline by voting against it in an in-store poll over the next two weeks.

The Northern Gateway pipeline is the most explosive environmental debate in B.C. since the battles over clearcut logging in what is now called the Great Bear Rainforest on the B.C. central coast.

It pits environmentalists and many first nations worried about risks of a spill against the Harper government, which has said the project is essential for Canada’s economic prosperity as it would open up new markets for the country’s oil resources. It may also become a source of friction between B.C. and Alberta, which have very different outlooks on the proposal. Stanway said Albertans generally express much more support for the pipeline than do British Columbians.

Concerns over tanker traffic through hazardous coastal waters, the potential for a spill and the fact that the pipeline will carry oilsands bitumen, a dense and viscous form of petroleum that requires extensive processing, are behind the protests.

Greenpeace campaigner Melina Laboucan-Massimo, who was at the Lions Gate Bridge when the banner was draped over the sidewalk railing, said it was a coincidence that the protest occurred the same day Enbridge announced its ad campaign. The protest marks Greenpeace’s return to high-profile environmental campaigns in this province, she said.

“This is a mounting campaign. We are joining the numerous voices that have been working on this campaign,” she said.

One of the goals of the Enbridge ads is to separate the issue of the pipeline from the growing opposition to oilsands extraction, said Enbridge executive vice-president Janet Holder. Enbridge differentiates itself from oil companies, referring to itself as an energy transportation company.

Holder said the ad campaign is part of a corporate outreach program. Its purpose is to direct people to the project website, northerngateway.ca, where the company has posted information and blogs on topics from economic benefits to environmental safeguards.

The focus is to “help British Columbians understand what the project is about,” she said.

The campaign is to begin this week with full-page ads in major B.C. daily newspapers and 30-second television ads with the slogan: “It’s more than a pipeline. It’s a path to our future.”

The campaign will run until the end of the year.

“It’s not so much to win [British Columbians] over but to give them some comfort that there are facts out there and that the facts are easily accessible. We want people to understand this project and the commitment we have to the project,” she said.

Executives from Enbridge also intend to take part in a Vancouver Sun live chat on The Sun’s website Friday, June 8, at 12 noon PST.

Holder, who was appointed executive vice-president of western access, the key executive position with oversight of the project, said the fact that the pipeline is to transport oilsands bitumen, already a hot-button environmental issue, has made it a lightning rod for protest. The 1,177-kilometre pipeline would run from Bruderheim, Alta., to Kitimat, where the diluted bitumen would be loaded on tankers bound for Asian markets.

Enbridge’s own research shows that opposition to the pipeline is strongest in southern B.C. Along the right-of-way in the north, support is generally about 55 per cent, Stanway said. Provincewide support is around the 50-per-cent level.

“It’s fair to say the opposition has firmed up in the last year,” Stanway said.

The pipeline proposal is now at the review stage. The National Energy Board is holding hearings across the province at which residents and stakeholders can register their views. Enbridge does not present its position until formal hearings begin in the fall. The ad campaign is to fill the void between now and then, Stanway said.

Enbridge wants to have the pipeline in operation by 2017.

“Regulatory approval is only part of the picture,” said Stanway. “We are asking for permission to go through a lot of people’s backyards and we recognized from the beginning that we are going to have to have a high level of acceptance, which has been described as social licence to build the pipeline.

“The majority of British Columbians don’t have a firm opinion one way or another and we feel there is still an opportunity to direct them to more information,” Stanway said.

The 12-metre-by-35-metre Greenpeace banner, hung by activists who rappelled down from the sidewalk, slowed traffic over the bridge Tuesday morning for several hours.

“It just seems to be part of the environment that we are having to face today,” Enbridge’s Holder said of the banner.

The Enbridge ad campaign drew a sharp response from environmentalists.

“It is typical of how an irresponsible and arrogant company will spend money when it is faced with criticism,” said ForestEthics founder Tzeporah Berman.

Berman, who led decade-long campaigns against logging practices by B.C. forest companies, said if Enbridge is serious about gaining the support of British Columbians, it should address concerns raised in this province over spills, tanker traffic and clean forms of energy.

“The sad thing is, it’s a waste of money,” she said. “A socially responsible company would put money into developing alternatives to the concerns that have been raised.”

Josh Patterson, of West Coast Environmental Law, called the ad campaign “insulting.”

“People in B.C. aren’t stupid. We don’t need advertising campaigns. We don’t need more information,” he said. “Sometimes the answer is just ‘no,’ and Enbridge has got to get used to it.”

Meanwhile, Enbridge’s offer of a 10-per-cent equity stake to first nations along the pipeline route closes Thursday, Stanway said. Enbridge claims it has support from 40 per cent of the first nations along the route. While it will not identify those that have opted for an equity stake in return for supporting the pipeline, Stanway said Enbridge will release the number of first nations on board early in June.

##### – via Vancouver Sun.

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