Environmental activist Ben West just smiles when asked if he thinks massive advertising campaigns by the energy sector are changing Vancouverites’ minds about proposed pipeline projects.
In an interview by English Bay, the campaign director of ForestEthics Advocacy told the Georgia Straight that much of what he’s seeing “has Frank Luntz’s fingerprints all over it”.
Luntz, a Republican communications strategist, has achieved considerable fame in the United States for testing words and phrases that create positive impressions of industrial activities.
For example, Luntz has said that he prefers “energy exploration” over “drilling for oil”.
West maintained that when a major news story arises concerning the oil and gas industry, he hears the same language coming from a variety of different angles.
“The stuff that comes from industry sounds almost identical to what comes from the federal government,” he said. “More often than not, I’m seeing people get frustrated by the obvious spin-doctoring that’s coming from industry. I don’t think they’re doing themselves any favours by not having a more rational and reasonable discussion about what truly responsible resource management would look like. What we’re doing in Canada is anything but ‘responsible resource management’.”
On Saturday (May 10), those who agree with West will converge on Sunset Beach (at the corner of Bute Street and Beach Avenue) for the #NoEnbridge Pipeline Rally at 2 p.m. West said that it’s being organized to send a message to Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his cabinet that Vancouverites are opposed to the proposed Enbridge pipeline, which would transport bitumen from the Alberta tarsands to Kitimat, where it would be shipped overseas to Asia in oil tankers.
Last December, the federal Joint Review Panel recommended approval of Enbridge’s application for the Northern Gateway pipeline provided it met 209 conditions. Under federal law, the cabinet must make a decision within 180 days of the earlier ruling.
West said this means that Harper will have to make up his mind in the first week of June.
“We think it’s important not only that we send a signal…that this issue is not going away but also to really remind Harper, as has been said before, that the politicians issue permits but the people give the permission. And they don’t have permission to build this pipeline,” West stated.
He promised that in addition to speeches from scientists, labour leaders, First Nations representatives, politicians, and environmentalists, there will also be opportunities to send messages directly to the premier, prime minister, and other party leaders.
“I can give you one little inside scoop,” West said with a mischievous smile. “We’ve got a salsa troupe that’s going to be leading the entire crowd on some sort of interactive ‘hot planet, cool salsa’ activity.”
The first #NoEnbridge Pipeline Rally was held in November, attracting a massive crowd near Science World. West said that he’s expecting a larger turnout for the event on Saturday.
“We’re actually calling it The Orca Strikes Back: #NoEnbridge Pipeline Rally 2,” he said.
West pointed out that in 2013, there was more employment in the United States in the solar-energy industry than in the coal and gas industries. The rally coincides with a national day of action on climate change, which is being organized by the Defend Our Climate, Defend Our Communities coalition.
“A lot of people don’t understand that there are viable alternatives that are economically viable,” West said. “There are mature technologies that are ready to be put in place.”