Kinder Morgan TV ads attacked as influencing city elections in B.C.
"The debate should be between local candidate versus local candidate....not candidates debating with giant Texas oil companies," said MP Kennedy Stewart.
Multinational oil pipeline giant Kinder Morgan is being formally challenged with Elections BC as seeking to influence the outcome of November municipal elections in British Columbia with a new ad campaign – a charge, the company disputes.
The Texas-headquartered corporation is running TV, radio, online and print ads just six weeks before civic election races in cities and towns across the province.
NDP Member of Parliament Kennedy Stewart filed the complaint Wednesday with Elections BC.
“I think in local elections, the debate should be between local candidate versus local candidate.”
“It should not be candidates debating with giant Texas oil companies,” said Stewart, outside the House of Commons in Ottawa Thursday.
Several city politicians up for re-election -- including Vancouver’s and Burnaby’s mayors – have staked their political reputations on advancing strong positions against the $5.4-billion Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project.
Burnaby Mayor Derek Corrigan is perhaps the most vocal opponent of the pipeline, and said the U.S. energy giant is unfairly interfering with Canadian city politics.
"The timing is peculiar,” said Mayor Corrigan Wednesday evening.
“[The company] is trying to make it as if the cities where politicians have taken a strong stand against Kinder Morgan are being foolish, that they are not addressing the public interest.”
Kinder Morgan TV ad airing in B.C. -- screen shot from company's Youtube
Kinder Morgan said the timing of its ads is coincidental, and part of a PR campaign underway for two years, to win over citizens to the Edmonton-to-Burnaby pipeline expansion proposal, to triple the flow of Alberta oil sands bitumen to the coast.
“These [advertising] efforts are really nothing to do with any election, and are in fact, spread across many B.C. communities,” said Ali Hounsell, spokesperson for Trans Mountain on Wednesday.
“They do not advocate for any policy, candidate or position. So, no, it’s part of our ongoing information and engagement efforts,” she added.
Hounsell also said Kinder Morgan does not fund any political campaigns in B.C.
Elections BC will rule shortly on whether Kinder Morgan will be required to register as a third-party organization funding communications during the election.
The provincial agency requires such organizations to also disclose monies spent.
Housell declined to disclose how much money Kinder Morgan is spending on its ads, but said a local firm was used, and the ads use real people, not actors.
“There’s not actors or fancy graphics – so it’s modest,” she said.
The pipeline company’s TV spot was aired Wednesday during the 6 o’clock CTV News program in B.C.
Other ads are running in the Lower Mainland, the Fraser Valley, Kamloops, and Victoria – all areas along the pipeline and marine corridors for the project.
Kinder Morgan TV ad airing in B.C. -- Youtube
The TV spot, which is also on Youtube, promotes the safety of the Trans Mountain pipeline with employee comments. A dreadlocked Trans Mountain worker claims the prevention of oil spills is her priority:
“It’s something we take seriously. Everyone around here is a neighbour or a friend,” states Kinder Morgan millwright Melissa Williams.
Big oil funding of oil-friendly candidates
Oil company interests in the U.S. are well known for funding candidates in city election races south of the border.
The billionaire Koch Brothers, who are big players in the Alberta oil sands, also fund the Americans for Prosperity – a group that spends millions on influencing elections.
The Washington Post reported that the Koch brothers have moved from funding oil-friendly candidates in federal and state election races -- to those in "hyper local races" all across America.
Likewise, the New York Times found that the same two industrialists had helped back mayoral candidates in cities as small as Iowa's Coralville, population 18,000.
Burnaby's Mayor said at a recent B.C. municipalities convention in Whistler, Kinder Morgan was seen buying drinks and lobbying candidates for office.