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What does Northern Gateway have in common with the Berlin Wall?

Nothing, of course. But that's not what a piece published by the New York Times argued

When he was younger, Max Fawcett wanted to make a mint in the markets. Now as the managing editor of Alberta Venture he gets to write about them. Close enough, right? He can be reached at

Jul 9, 2014

by Max Fawcett

It’s no great secret that newspapers are struggling for new sources of readers and revenue, and a piece published by the New York Times yesterday served as still more evidence to that effect. On the “Room for Debate” section on its website, where it presumably solicits free content from academics and intellectuals looking to get the Times’s brand on their resume, it featured a piece by a University of Victoria post-doctoral student and a lecturer at a UK university that was worth every non-existent penny they paid its authors. It’s about the Northern Gateway Pipeline, and it argues that “like the Berlin Wall or the Korean Demilitarized Zone, it threatens to split entire communities apart, devastating ecosystems and livelihoods.” Yes, that’s correct – the Northern Gateway Pipeline is like the Berlin Wall. And you thought we’d already reached peak hyperbole.

Curiously, it doesn’t actually add any new information to the debate over the proposed pipeline’s merits or lack thereof. Instead, it actually subtracts information, or at the very least swaps in some incorrect facts. Enbridge, they argue, is “a Canadian oil company.” Nope. It hopes to build, they write, two pipelines to Kitimat, one of which would carry imported natural gas inland. Wrong again – that would be recycled diluent, not imported natural gas. And they suggest that the Dogwood Initiative is “preparing a referendum to stop the project.” That’s sort of like saying that the Toronto Maple Leafs are preparing to win the Stanley Cup in 2015. Yes, the Dogwood Initiative is trying to get the signatures needed to meet the requirements of the province’s 1991 Recall and Initiative Act, but even if they get them and win the ensuing referendum (in 2017, most likely) its results wouldn’t be legally binding.

Is this pointless nitpicking? To some, perhaps. But the debate around this pipeline project has become defined by spin, misinformation and outright deceit from all quarters. It’s the media’s job – or it’s supposed to be, anyways – to stand on behalf of the facts. The Times, for all of its well-deserved accolades, failed to do that here.

One Response to What does Northern Gateway have in common with the Berlin Wall?

  1. Robert says:

    Fact: Climate change is more significant for Canadians / the globe than the short term gains from this project. If you want the conversation to rely on facts, it need not go beyond that fact. Too easy. What’s next?