A Public Relations War on all Fronts

BC government aims to win hearts and minds in battle to open the province up to more mining, oil and gas

Beyond rhetoric about improving competitiveness and establishing the province as a centre for innovation, among the most concrete strategies suggested in the Ministry of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources 2010/11-2012/13 Service Plan are government sponsored marketing campaigns to promote the benefits of the extractive industries.

The Service Plan, released last week, is where the B.C. government outlines their primary strategies with regards to the energy, mining and oil and gas industries to 2013. The public relations efforts articulated throughout the Plan fly in the face of the demands of Indigenous nations, in whose territories these projects would be built.

One of the objectives of the Service Plan is to increase the involvement of First Nations in the oil and gas industry. This includes “advising” First Nations on how resources can be developed in an “environmentally responsible manner,” by strengthening links to industry and government, and negotiating revenue sharing agreements.

The government also aims to “Facilitate involvement by local First Nations in oil and gas pipelines through the proposed Northern Energy Corridor between Kitimat and Prince George.” Given the level of resistance to pipelines in Northern B.C., and the fact that much of land mass to be traversed by the pipelines was never ceded by Indigenous people, it appears that the B.C. government is on a collision course.

Toghestiy (Warner Naziel), a member of the Wet’suwet’en Nation, did extensive research on the Northern Gateway energy pipeline, proposed as part of an energy corridor which includes two Enbridge pipelines and a Kinder Morgan pipeline. The B.C. government has been promoting this energy project for over a decade.

“One hundred per cent of people [in my community] were completely against any type of development, especially anything in relation to this energy corridor,” Toghestiy told the Vancouver Media Co-op in February.

Another objective of the Ministry’s Service Plan is to create the social license for increased development of the extractive industries in BC. This can be achieved, according to the Plan, by financing public relations and educational campaigns.

“Develop and implement focused promotional programs to inform British Columbians about opportunities in the energy, mining and natural gas industries,” reads one strategy. “…Engage school students in a discussion of responsible energy, mineral and natural gas resource development,” reads another.

“They’re trying to promote a pipeline that is completely unwanted,” said Macdonald Stainsby, an anti-tar sands activist with oilsandstruth.org.

“People who promote these kinds of developments in areas where the benefits will be little to none tend to use a war on all fronts, from friends and neighbours to glossy pamphlets to promises of money that will never arrive,” he said.

Stainsby calls the proposed PR strategy proof that despite his green image, Premier Gordon Campbell still takes his marching orders from Ottawa and Washington. “These efforts are linked to increasing energy supply from the tarsands, rather than reducing energy supply,” he said.

Enbridge, Kinder Morgan, Shell, Teck, and Imperial Metals Corporation have all faced fierce resistance, led by Indigenous land defenders and supported by allies locally and around the world.

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