Was it something I said?

TransCanada's PR firm should be charged with plagiarism

Blog by John Bennett

[NOTE: Names of some individuals and political affiliations have not been included to comply with new Canada Revenue Agency rules on partisan activity.]

Bravo to Keith Stewart of Greenpeace for revealing that TransCanada Corporation hired a global PR firm to develop a ‘dirty tricks’ campaign to shove the #EnergyEast pipeline down our unwilling throats.

The leaked documents -- replete with recommendations like adding “layers of difficulty for our opponents, distracting them from their mission and causing them to redirect their resources” -- caused quite a stir.

The PR strategy also recommeded creating and supporting groups or individuals who would speak out in support of the pipeline and actively undermine the credibility of pipeline opponents.

What I found the most surprising was that TransCanada Corporation would pay PR giant Edelman for plagiarizing a scheme already being executed by the federal government.

Think about it: A few years ago, Ethical Oil popped up out of nowhere to take a run at environmental groups while touting the ‘ethical’ nature of Canada’s dirty Tar Sands oil. Almost immediately, the Prime Minister, Cabinet Ministers and Senators began echoing Ethical Oil’s sound bytes.

According to its own website, Ethical Oil was started as a blog by Alykhan Velshi to promote the ‘work’ of Ezra Levant. Velshi currently works as Director of Issues Management for the Prime Minister of Canada. For more on (un)Ethical Oil's PMO tentacles click here.

Around the same time, Vivian Krause, a former political staffer in B.C. began to do ‘research’ on US based foundations supporting the work of Canadian environmental organizations. Suddenly, she was appearing on SUN TV and writing op-eds about foreign money undermining Canadian interests. The exact same language was echoed by the then Natural Resources Minister in his infamous 2012 open letter to media where he went even further, declaring Tar Sands opponents were “radicals”.

Next came the then Environment Minister -- in McCarthy’esque fashion -- who told CBC that environmental groups are “laundering money”. He refused to accept my challenge and present evidence.

This was of course the justification for his gutting democratic processes contained in the Environmental Assessment Act, and instructing the Canadian Revenue Agency (CRA) to investigate political activity of environmental charities.

Shortly after the CRA political inquisition began, several prominent environmental charities underwent extensive audits and are currently awaiting big brother’s verdict. Can you think of a better way of distracting them from their mission and causing them to redirect their resources?

Then there is the massive advertising campaign the government is conducting in concert with the oil companies to convince Canadians the extremely toxic Tar Sands tailing ponds are “essentially like yogurt”. Yes, yogurt!

There is plenty more evidence (see links below) that the federal government has been executing the ‘Edelman strategy’ of undermining enviro groups and charities for some years now.

More recently…this week a former provincial energy minister (Alberta) and federal candidate in the upcoming election appeared on CBC’s The Current to debate implications of the Keystone Tar Sands Pipeline. Instead of debating Keith Stewart on the issue, how the pipeline – if approved -- would affect Canada’s 2020 greenhouse gas emissions targets, he repeatedly referred to him as an “extremist”.

There has always been a gulf between government and the demands of conservation-minded groups and individuals. The former is responsible for balancing multiple issues and the latter focused on one. Pushing and balancing is how we have developed environmental protection regulations (once admired around the world).

Why has the balancing act been replaced by a PR strategy of bullying and dirty tricks? Was it something I said?

If so, I apologize.


John Bennett, National Program Director
Sierra Club Canada Foundation
1510-1 Nicholas Street
Ottawa, Ontario K1N 7B7
John on Twitter / Bennett Blog