Vancouver Observer

Postmedia Gets Away With Running Unmarked Oil Advertorials

Janet Holder

Paid advertisements for the oil industry have run unlabelled as editorial content on the websites of the Vancouver Sun and Regina Leader-Post — yet Canada’s ad regulator has decided not to rule against Postmedia, the company that owns the papers.

DeSmog Canada filed a complaint with Advertising Standards Canada on March 4, regarding a story published on the Vancouver Sun’s website on Dec. 4, 2013, with the headline “Born to the Challenge: Janet Holder’s B.C. roots make her the perfect lead on Northern Gateway.”

The article told the tale of how Holder came to be Enbridge’s VP of Western Access, responsible for pushing the Northern Gateway oil tanker and pipeline project. Holder recited the economic claim that Canada is losing $50-million a day due to limited export markets

Economist Robyn Allan read the article and took issue with that economic claim. When she submitted an opinion piece in response, she was informed it couldn’t be run because the article she was responding to was actually a paid advertisement.

It was clear that the page was set up to look like arms length reporting — even more so on the web than in the printed version of the paper,” Allan told DeSmog Canada. “I had prepared my opinion piece from the web ‘article’ and when I saw the printed version, I became confused—was it reporting or paid-for propaganda? The Sun editorial staff confirmed the page was paid content.”

DeSmog Canada’s complaint with the ad standards agency cited Clause 2 “Disguised Advertising Techniques,” which states: “No advertisement shall be presented in a format or style that conceals its commercial intent.”

After two months, Advertising Standards Canada sent a written reply to DeSmog Canada indicating that it had decided not to issue a ruling against Postmedia.

CSIS Involvement in Enbridge Hearings Makes National News

When I sat down Tuesday night to put some thoughts on paper about allegations of spying on Canadian environmental and pro-democracy groups, I never imagined those musings would end up being read by tens of thousands of people and spawn news coverage across the country.

But that’s exactly what happened. In my original piece, I lamented that the story wasn’t being covered by traditional news outlets — but within a couple of days the Globe and Mail, Metro, Sun News, the Victoria Times Colonist and CBC had picked up on the story. The National Energy Board, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS), several politicians and Alberta’s energy minister all commented on the spying allegations.

On Monday morning, I did three CBC Radio interviews — here's a clip of me discussing the spying allegations on Daybreak North.

I’ve spent much of the past week brushing up on the ins and outs of surveillance, speaking to lawyers, reporters and trusted friends about the implications of the Vancouver Observer’s report.

Here are answers to the three most pressing questions raised by this news.

The Day I Found Out the Canadian Government Was Spying on Me

DeSmog Canada's Emma Gilchrist

Nov. 19th, 2013. A Tuesday. The day started out sunny, but hail fell out of the sky in the afternoon. It was a Victoria day like any other until I found out the Canadian government has been vigorously spying on several Canadian organizations that work for environmental protections and democratic rights.

I read the news in the Vancouver Observer. There, front and centre, was the name of the organization I worked for until recently: Dogwood Initiative.

My colleagues and I had been wary of being spied on for a long time, but having it confirmed still took the wind out of me.

I told my parents about the article over dinner. They’re retired school teachers who lived in northern Alberta for 35 years before moving to Victoria.

I asked them: “Did you know the Canadian government is spending your tax dollars to spy on your daughter?”

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