Do Kinder Morgan's pro-pipeline ads constitute third-party advertising because they touch on an election issue? It depends if they mention a politician or party.
That's the decision from Elections B.C. following a complaint from Burnaby-Douglas MP Kennedy Stewart. According to provincial law, anyone running ads on an election issue has to register as a third-party advertiser and disclose advertising costs within 90 days after the Nov. 15 election.
Stewart argued Kinder Morgan's recent ads promoting the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion should be considered third-party advertising because the pipeline is an election issue.
However, Elections B.C. did not consider Kinder Morgan's pro-pipeline commercials as third-party advertising because there were no references to politicians or political parties.
"Although the advertising raises the issue of Kinder Morgan's safety record and the Trans Mountain pipeline, it does not appear to implicate positively or negatively a candidate or elector organization," said Don Main, Elections B.C. spokesperson.
However, Elections B.C. has decided a recording posted on Kinder Morgan's Trans Mountain website did constitute third-party advertising, because it included remarks about Burnaby's mayor.
"That would be considered third-party advertising," Main told the NOW.
The recording was from a town hall meeting with Kinder Morgan Canada president Ian Anderson. Thousands of residents listened on the phone, as Anderson answered questions about the pipeline. Stewart told Elections B.C. the Sept. 16 recording included disparaging comments about the mayor because Anderson referred to a plan to "offset" the mayor's "very public media driven campaign against the pipeline."
When Elections B.C. contacted Kinder Morgan, the company took the recording down voluntarily.
Stewart would rather see the company cease all advertising until after the Nov. 15 election.
"In my mind, Kinder Morgan just should not be advertising during municipal election cycles when it's such an important issue in Burnaby and Vancouver," he said.
Mayor Derek Corrigan, who is adamantly opposed to the pipeline expansion, is running for re-election in the midst of a heated battle with Kinder Morgan.
Meanwhile, Kinder Morgan is running a PR campaign with print, radio, TV and online ads. Lisa Clement, spokesperson for the Trans Mountain project said the "information campaign" is part of the company's efforts to engage with and provide information to as many British Columbians as possible.
"The information highlights Trans Mountain's company history, culture and commitment to safety. As Elections B.C. has confirmed, these efforts are not election advertising as they do not advocate for any municipal candidate, policy or position," she wrote in an emailed statement. "We have voluntarily taken down a portion of the archival audio recordings from our telephone town halls, as they contain passing references to municipal elections."
The NOW's own survey found the Kinder Morgan pipeline expansion was the number 1 issue of concern for readers in this upcoming civic election.