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HomeNewsAlberta spent $21K on pro-pipeline propaganda before Squamish Nation ordered billboard ads gone

Alberta spent $21K on pro-pipeline propaganda before Squamish Nation ordered billboard ads gone


Bob Mackin

The Alberta government says its pro-Kinder Morgan ads were on Squamish Nation-owned billboards for nine days before the First Nation ordered they be removed. 

The Keep Canada Working campaign that broke April 30 was on rotation at the Squamish Nation’s digital billboards near the Lions Gate Bridge, Ironworkers Memorial Second Narrows Bridge and Burrard Bridge. The band is challenging the Trans Mountain Pipeline’s approval in the Federal Court of Appeal and several members, including councillor Khelsilem (aka Dustin Rivers), are part of the growing protest camp near the Burnaby Mountain tank farm.

Alberta’s pro-Kinder Morgan ad on a Squamish Nation billboard near the Lions Gate Bridge (Mackin)

“Trans Mountain Pipeline means more money for roads, schools and hospitals” says one of the bright, red ads, which features the campaign website and a doodle of buildings and flowers. The ad is part of a taxpayer-funded campaign worth almost $1.3 million. Much of it is targeted to B.C. where Premier John Horgan’s NDP government is opposed to the project to transport tar sands oil to the B.C. coast.

Cheryl Oates, spokeswoman for Alberta NDP Premier Rachel Notley, told theBreaker that $20,630 was spent before the ads were switched May 8 to billboards on Highway 99 near Beach Road in White Rock, Highway 1 near Whatcom Road in Abbotsford and Robson and Granville in downtown Vancouver. 

“They were not paid in advanced and we only paid for the duration that they were up (nothing was refunded),” Oates said. The locations were chosen because they are high profile locations with high volumes of vehicle traffic going to and from downtown Vancouver. 

Khelsilem said the ads were removed on May 10. “There was no policy or approval process. We just made a kind request to the company that runs the billboards and they obliged.”

The three-metre by nine-metre LED billboards were erected before the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics. They are managed by Allvision Canada Co. and operated by Bell-owned Astral Media. A 2010 news release quoted Squamish Nation chief Bill Williams saying the billboards would generate $50 million for the tribe. 

On April 8, Kinder Morgan announced suspension of federally approved work to expand the pipeline. It blamed continued opposition from the B.C. government, which is unlikely to meet the company’s May 31 deadline to change course. On April 26, Horgan formally asked the B.C. Court of Appeal to rule whether B.C. has jurisdiction to regulate the environmental and economic impacts of oil transported in the province. On May 16, federal finance minister Bill Morneau offered to bailout Kinder Morgan for any losses related to politically motivated construction delays. 

Also on May 16, Attorney General David Eby threatened to sue Alberta should it follow through on Notley’s threat to restrict the supply of Alberta oil to B.C. 

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