Proponents of the Northern Gateway pipeline proposal seem hell-bent for leather on conducting what may be the most inept natural resource project application in B.C. history. Their place in the Canadian business school textbooks is assured, under the heading "Enbridge to Nowhere."
An initial unconvincing ad blitz showing happy families frolicking amongst interlocking fronds was followed by a scathing U.S. National Transportation Safety Board report on Enbridge's disastrous Kalamazoo River spill, one of the worst inland oil spills on record.
When NSTB Chairman Deborah Hersman characterized the company's appalling breakdown of safety response as reminiscent of the Keystone Kops, then-Enbridge CEO Patrick Daniel countered by quoting the children's author, Lemony Snicket. It was, he said, all just a "Series of Unfortunate Events."
Not to be outdone in the fiction department, the company topped everything with yet another animated ad campaign in which the islands crowding the proposed Douglas Channel supertanker pathway into Kitimat magically vanished.
Enbridge's latest act of attempted self-immolation consists of a petition that the National Energy Board Joint Review Panel compel funding information from conservation critics, apparently on the basis that there is something improper about major American science-based foundations being involved in Canadian issues.
Does Enbridge truly expect the NEB to toss aside the evidence of critics as contaminated by foreign influence when it is itself 27 per cent foreign owned? Two of its 10 partners in Northern Gateway (Sinopec and Total) are also foreign owned, while another (Nexen) is subject to a Chinese takeover bid by CNOOC and the identities of four other partners are secret.
It's pretty simple. As Enbridge well knows, the NEB Joint Review Panel doesn't care about American foundations. It assesses the reliability of complex data and deals with international parties and interests all the time. If evidence were flown in from Mars the NEB Joint Review Panel would accept it, so long as it was reliable, relevant, and submitted according to the rules. The review panel must sift through and weigh masses of conflicting evidence over a tight timeline, and won't have any intention of going on a time-consuming wild goose chase of investigating all the participants.
In other words, this latest gambit is not directed at the NEB, but is rather a PR stratagem to change a disastrous media narrative by peddling a recycled news story that didn't work the first time. Everybody in British Columbia already knows about the American foundations and they don't care.
Curiously, given the events of the past year, Canadians might be surprised by what we don't know about the supposed foreign radicals backing Tides Canada and other conservation groups. Most of us don't know, for instance, that the Harper government itself openly and vigorously pursued these same American foundations as financial partners in a well-publicized 2006 agreement brokered by Tides. None of this was secret at the time, in fact the federal government held a press conference to announce it.
Many, if not all, of the foundations that Enbridge now wants "exposed" contributed a combined $60 million to a $120 million partnership with the Canadian and BC governments, preserving some 72,000 sq. km of pristine forests, river inlets and coastal waters in and around Kitimat, now known as the Great Bear Rainforest. By remarkable coincidence the Great Bear Rainforest protected waters include the aforementioned Douglas Channel entrance to the proposed pipeline port.
Suddenly all the major donors celebrated by the Harper government just a few years ago are incredibly inconvenient.
So it comes as no surprise that Enbridge is protesting their involvement, and our own federal ministers now demonizes them as radical money-laundering interlopers.
Reality could hardly be more different. The impugned American organizations are among the world's largest, most respected and mainstream scientific research and humanitarian foundations, and routinely partner with governments and NGO's at the highest level across the globe. They are light years removed from the radical wing-nuts they've been painted to be.
A CLOSER LOOK
It would do British Columbians and Canadians well if we did investigate these foundations more thoroughly. We might be pleasantly surprised by the results.
Take the first named suspect, the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation. Gordon and Betty Moore are corporate and philanthropic giants in Silicon Valley and the San Francisco Bay area, and their impact on scientific research and conservation is legendary and global. Co-inventor of the semi-conductor and co-founder of Intel, Gordon Moore is the author of Moore's Law . The former board chair of Cal-Tech, Moore and his wife have donated $600 million for scientific research there. He is the recipient of the U.S. Presidential Medal of Freedom.
With assets of almost $6 billion, the Moore Foundation has funded over $200 million to protect the Amazon River Basin, $250 million to build the largest land-based telescope in the world, and has put millions into tracking the path of radioactive materials from the Fukushima nuclear disaster across the Pacific to North America, so local governments can respond appropriately, to give just a few examples. They have particular interest in marine habitats along the western North American coastline and across the North Pacific to Russia and Japan, which is how they happen to be involved in Canada's Great Bear Rainforest.
The achievements of the other enumerated foundations are equally stellar. The trustees and boards of governors of each organization boasts many of the world's most respected scientists and civic leaders, including:
Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation:
- Dr. Bruce Alberts, Editor-in-Chief of the academic journal Science, and for 12 years president of the US National Academy of Sciences,
- Dr. Rosina Bierbaum, White House Director of Science and Technology Policy
- Dr Donald Kennedy, former President, Stanford University and co-chair of the US National Academies' Committee on Science Technology, and the Law
- Cole Wilbur, Director of the Institute for Global Ethics and former interim CEO of the US Council on Foundations.
Rockefeller Brothers Fund:
- Nicholas Burns, retired senior diplomat and 3rd ranking member of the US State Department under both Clinton and Bush; Professor of Diplomacy and International Politics at Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University
The list of scientific, academic and public service luminaries involved with the foundations goes on and on. You can read more about these organizations and their history with the Harper government in my Vancouver Observer piece here.
Agree or disagree with the scientific conclusions and advocacy of these foundations as you will, but their integrity and credentials are beyond reproach. We should welcome their participation in the debate around proper stewardship of natural habitats.