Port authority defends removing signs of coal sponsorship

Cover story published in 24 Hours Vancouver | October 31, 2013 | Circulation: 280,000+

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Newly released documents suggest Port Metro Vancouver, the federal regulator reviewing a plan to expand the region’s coal exports, donated to a coal industry lobby conference in September but attempted to hide its sponsorship.

The 44 pages of documents, obtained through an Access to Information and Privacy request from the activist group Voters Taking Action on Climate Change, reveal the federally appointed body is a member of lobby group Coal Association of Canada and paid $5,000 to the annual conference.

“(Port CEO Robin Silvester) brought up the issue of the Coal Conference,” said an Aug. 27 email from PMV senior account representative Doug Mills to Katherine Bamford, the agency’s trade development director. “He fully backs our support of this important industry sector, but that, as result of recent press and public backlash, we need to be less out-there at this time.”

Bamford replied: “Please ensure that all digital and electronic promotion items exclude PMV brand marks.”

In a phone interview, Bamford told 24 hours the sponsorship is essential to the port’s mandate to “facilitate trade,” and defended the removal of logos from conference materials.

“They removed our logo before it went to print,” she said. “We were actually taking the public’s concerns into consideration in our sponsorships here.”

Kathryn Harrison, Voters Taking Action on Climate Change spokeswoman, said the documents suggest the port can’t act impartially.

“They provide further evidence that the port sees its role as an ally or advocate of the coal industry, rather than as an independent or impartial regulator,” said the University of B.C. political science professor. “That’s problematic when one of the port’s mandates is to evaluate project proposals, such as FSD (Fraser Surrey Docks), based on potential health and environmental consequences of those projects.

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