VANCOUVER - Those reading major newspapers in British Columbia, Alberta or Ontario over the past two days might have noticed a full-page ad placed by Calgary-based Enbridge.

The statement from the oil giant emphasized the company's "99.999 per cent" pipeline safety record and its commitment to preventing oil spills.

While Enbridge (TSX: ENB) maintains the ad was not a direct reaction to negative publicity it has been receiving in recent months, some critics are viewing it as an effort to win over those opposed to one of the company's major proposed Canadian projects.

Enbridge's pipeline safety record has been attacked recently by environmental advocates, politicians and the media due to several spills from its pipelines in the U.S. The criticism comes as the company is trying to gain approval for its controversial Northern Gateway project, which would take Alberta oil to northern B.C. to be shipped to foreign markets.

Mike Hillman, a former B.C. Liberal party campaign manager and a former public affairs consultant, said the ad indicates Enbridge may be trying to "play catch up" with those opposed to Northern Gateway.

Hillman said if Enbridge is trying to garner support for the project, it should have made the company's pipeline safety statistics more apparent to the public sooner.

"If in fact you have an exceptional record and you have qualities that are in fact very real, then there's no reason why those things shouldn't be known to people much earlier in its existence," he said.

"By bringing out those things now, by the sounds of it, to counter some of the reactions to their project in B.C and to also recent incidents that have happened, it's a bit of catch up."

University of British Columbia social marketing professor Darren Dahl said the ad, which is a written statement by the company's president Al Monaco and chief executive officer Pat Daniel, may also be an attempt to move public sentiment by giving out information that Enbridge feels is more accurate.

"If you asked someone 10 years ago about pipelines, they probably had no opinion or they're like, 'Yeah they're well-managed,'" Dahl said.

"But because of the high stakes of the (Northern Gateway) proposal, and there has been some pipeline incidents in past years that has caught the media's attention, people don't have the same neutral or positive attitude...towards pipelines."

Indeed, Enbridge's ad stresses the necessity of getting the facts on pipelines straight.

"Pipeline safety has been much in the news lately, and so it's important to give the issue some context—to look beyond the latest headline and recognize the outstanding long-term safety record of this important energy delivery system," Monaco and Daniel wrote.

But the company's executive vice president of western access said the ad is not a direct response to some of the negative publicity it has been subjected to.

"We're just trying to assure the public that we do take safety very seriously," Janet Holder told the Canadian Press in a phone interview.

"This just further enhances that we take safety very seriously and that our track record would show that."

Last month, the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board criticized Enbridge's response to a pipeline spill of millions of litres of oil into Michigan's Kalamazoo River on July 25, 2010, affecting more than 50 kilometres of waterways and wetlands.

Shortly after the scathing U.S. report, which likened Enbridge to the "Keystone Kops," Enbridge announced it would invest another $500 million in safety improvements to the Northern Gateway pipeline.

But the oil giant continues to see opposition to the proposal.

Hillman said Enbridge would need to do much more than placing an ad if it wants to persuade British Columbians to support Northern Gateway.

"As much as you like to have a large flag that you can wave, the reality is you're still dealing with aboriginal communities, and with others all the way along the pipeline and other interest groups," he said.

"You need to be able to work with them and develop those relationships as well."

Holder agreed.

"There's no question, we know we have a lot of work to do, especially in the province of British Columbia, to convince the public that Enbridge is a respectable company, that we can build pipelines in a safe and reliable and sustainable way," she said.

"I wouldn't say we're ready to say it's working yet — I believe we have a lot of more work to do, but we have some time on our side, and we will continue helping the public understand who we are."

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  • June 18, 2012 -- Elk Point

    Enbridge Inc.'s <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2012/06/19/enbridge-elk-point-spill-_n_1610613.html" target="_hplink">Athabasca pipeline leaked an estimated 230,000 litres of oil</a> about 24 kilometres southeast of Elk Point, Alberta. <br></br> A member of Greenpeace cleans up a mock oil spill outside the Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline office in downtown Vancouver, Wednesday, June 13, 2012. The mock spill was set up by Greenpeace to show the risks of spills similar to the recent one outside of Red Deer, Alberta. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward

  • June 18, 2012 -- Elk Point

    Although the spill didn't leak into any waterways, Energy Resources Conservation Board's Darin Barter said the<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2012/06/19/enbridge-elk-point-spill-_n_1610613.html" target="_hplink"> spill was considered "significant" in size</a>.<br></br> "Any amount of crude oil out of a pipeline is significant to us. Obviously we've had a number of pipeline incidents in the past short while and we're monitoring cleanup on them and we have a number of investigations underway."

  • June 7, 2012 -- Red Deer River

    An estimated 475,000 litres of oil <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2012/06/09/alberta-oil-spill-red-deer-river_n_1583579.html" target="_hplink">spilled from a Plains Midstream Canada pipeline</a> and proceeded to leak into the Red Deer River. <br></br> Oil from a pipeline leak coats a pond near Sundre, Alta., Friday, June 8, 2012. Plains Midstream Canada says one of their non-functioning pipeline leaked between 1,000-3,000 barrels of oil. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh

  • June 7, 2012 -- Red Deer River

    Some of the oil <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2012/06/11/alberta-oil-pipeline-spill-red-deer-river-clean-up_n_1588536.html" target="_hplink">seeped into the Gleniffer reservoir</a>, which some Albertans rely on for drinking water. Plains Midstream Canada <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2012/06/11/alberta-oil-pipeline-spill-red-deer-river-clean-up_n_1588536.html" target="_hplink">trucked in drinking water</a> for those residing near the area.

  • May 19, 2012 -- Northwest Alberta

    Pace Oil and Gas's waste disposal line <a href="http://www.calgaryherald.com/business/energy-resources/Rainbow Lake spill pegged at 22,000 barrels/6683338/story.html" target="_hplink">leaked about 22,000 barrels of a mixture of oil and water</a> 20 kilometres southeast of Rainbow Lake. The spill was discovered on May 19 by another oil and gas company.

  • May 19, 2012 -- Northwest Alberta

    The oil spill "<a href="http://www.theglobeandmail.com/globe-investor/pipeline-spill-sends-22000-barrels-of-oil-mix-into-alberta-muskeg/article2447765/" target="_hplink">ranks among the largest in North America in recent years</a>," the Globe and Mail wrote.

  • June 26, 2011 -- Swan Hills

    A pipeline explosion and oil leak at a Pengrowth Energy facility caused a pipeline to leak <a href="http://edmonton.ctv.ca/servlet/an/local/CTVNews/20110627/edm_oil_110627/20110627/?hub=EdmontonHome" target="_hplink">500 barrels of light, sweet crude oil into Judy Creek</a> near Swan Hills, Alberta.

  • June 26, 2011 -- Swan Hills

    Energy Resources Conservation Board spokesman Darin Barter said the <a href="http://www.cbc.ca/news/business/story/2011/06/27/edmonton-oil-spill-swan-hills.html" target="_hplink">leak was relatively small</a>. <br></br> "It's what we would consider a minor spill with 95 per cent of the product coming out of the pipeline being water and five per cent oil," he told CBC. "However, we're taking it very seriously, as is the company."

  • April 29, 2011 -- Little Buffalo First Nation

    Plains Midstream Canada's 45-year-old Rainbow pipeline<a href="http://m.theglobeandmail.com/news/politics/a-dire-warning-from-a-broken-pipe/article4262774/?service=mobile" target="_hplink"> spilled roughly 28,000 barrels of light crude oil</a> near Little Buffalo First Nation.

  • April 29, 2011 -- Little Buffalo First Nation

    Residents, including children, <a href="http://www.afn.ca/index.php/en/news-media/latest-news/urgent-measures-needed-for-citizens-of-little-buffalo-first-nation-in-" target="_hplink">reported incidents of burning eyes, stomach pains, disorientation, nausea and headaches</a>, according to the Assembly of First Nations.