Enbridge on the defensive with $5 million ad blitz

Enbridge announced last week a new multimillion-dollar advertising campaign promoting its crude oil pipeline and supertanker project for B.C.’s coast.

The ad blitz includes full-page colour ads and 30-second TV ads. An acquaintance of mine sent me an e-mail describing her son’s reaction: “When the TV ad came on last night my son responded by yelling ‘liar’ at the TV.”

It’s clear Enbridge has a credibility problem. They’re an oil pipeline company. They’re out for themselves and people know that. They spill oil all the time, including big spills into rivers.

I’m not worried about this latest PR initiative (in fact, we’ve been having a bit of good-humored fun with it on Twitter #ItsNotAPipeline and with this spoof video) and neither should you.

Speaking to reporters, Enbridge spokesperson Paul Stanway said “It’s fair to say the opposition has firmed up in the last year” and that “It’s become quite apparent that the debate has become a province-wide issue.”

I think that’s code for “we’re losing ground and we know it.” I think Enbridge is desperate.

They’ve played the federal Conservatives well and that’s panned out for them, but both Enbridge and the Conservatives are losing political ground in B.C., where they need it most.

Enbridge has lost key northern local governments like Terrace, Smithers and Prince Rupert. And they’ve attracted the opposition of southern local governments in politically important areas and the opposition of the province-wide Union of B.C. Municipalities.

And while they claimed this week that 60 per cent of aboriginal groups along the proposed pipeline route have signed on for an equity stake, they continue to refuse to identify who has signed on – despite the fact their own documents indicate one of the requirements for First Nations to participate in the equity offer was that Enbridge “has unrestricted right to disclose that groups have taken commercial interest.” The Coastal First Nations have called Enbridge’s announcement a sham.

Any which way, litigation by any one of the directly impacted First Nations is certain to take any government approval of the project to the Supreme Court of Canada.

Meanwhile, they’re facing a provincial NDP party that is well positioned to win the next election and firmly opposes their project. The NDP has even assembled its own legal advisory team to deal with Enbridge’s project.

And their best hope for meaningful provincial political support – Christy Clark – is determined to remain on the fence and is plummeting in the polls.

Enbridge’s hope for their ad campaign is to “help British Columbians understand what the project is about,” but being unable to change the fact oil spills happen and pipelines don’t create much in the way of long-term jobs means they will continue to face an impenetrable wall in British Columbia – now they’re just $5 million poorer.

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