As I was wrap­ping up my

Alberta Venture - - Editor’s Note - Michael Gan­ley Ed­i­tor mgan­ley@al­ber­taven­ @Michael­b­gan­ley

in­ter­view with Al Monaco – it was an hour-long tele­con­fer­ence with him in Cal­gary and me in Ed­mon­ton – he turned the ta­bles on me and asked my opin­ion. We’d been dis­cussing pipelines, nat­u­rally, and how dif­fi­cult it has be­come to get new ones in the ground or even to get old ones re­versed. (The only time he’d shown the slight­est ir­ri­ta­tion dur­ing our hour was when we talked about the re­ver­sal of En­bridge’s Line 9 through On­tario and Que­bec in 2015, which he de­scribed as the sim­plest thing a pipe­line com­pany can do. “It took us three years,” he said, re­fer­ring to the ap­proval process, “when it should have taken six months.”)

In re­sponse, I sug­gested that en­ergy com­pa­nies were los­ing the bat­tle for the hearts and minds of the peo­ple, and that de­spite a gen­er­ally good track record of keep­ing oil and gas in the pipelines, a lot of peo­ple seem to think they’re al­ways spring­ing leaks. He ac­knowl­edged the dis­con­nect, say­ing “the amount of prod­uct on the ground is minis­cule.”

Try­ing to get back to the jour­nal­ist’s role, I asked what in­dus­try might do about this and sug­gested it wasn’t do­ing a good job of com­mu­ni­cat­ing its record and its rel­e­vance. What did he think of that? He got slightly testy for the sec­ond time and said in­dus­try has been com­mu­ni­cat­ing hard for 20 years about its safety record and the ben­e­fits it brings to Cana­di­ans, both in terms of eco­nomic ac­tiv­ity and the com­fort of hav­ing a warm home. Then he said some­thing I hadn’t ex­pected and that put me in mind of the re­cent U.S. pres­i­den­tial race. “More facts aren’t go­ing to help,” he said. “These are emo­tional is­sues and that’s how the in­dus­try has to ap­proach it.”

A small part of a jour­nal­ist dies ev­ery time some­one says facts don’t mat­ter, but maybe he’s right, at least in part. En­bridge brought emo­tion to the mat­ter a cou­ple of years ago with its Life Takes En­ergy mar­ket­ing cam­paign, which has seen the com­pany spend mil­lions to high­light a baby’s first bath (with nat­u­ral-gas heated warm wa­ter, of course), a car ride with a dog and a cou­ple’s trip of a life­time. Monaco had to be con­vinced by his lieu­tenants to launch the cam­paign three years ago, but he’s now glad he lis­tened. “This is about build­ing your brand,” he says. Then he adds, a lit­tle wist­fully, “In our busi­ness, we never used to think we needed to do that.”

But I don’t get the sense Monaco will ever rely too heav­ily on mar­ket­ing and PR spin. The man spends a lot of time on the road, in small towns and com­mu­ni­ties and on First Na­tions lands, telling peo­ple first-hand how En­bridge has per­formed in the past and how it’s go­ing to per­form in the case rel­e­vant to them. “You build that trust and con­fi­dence in what you’re do­ing,” he says. “That’s not send­ing out a fact sheet. Com­mu­ni­ca­tion is be­ing on the ground and es­tab­lish­ing trust.”

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