A councillor for a city explicitly targeted by online attacks ads from a shady group with ties to Canada's gas industry wonders why her city is in the line of fire.

For the past few weeks, some readers of the New York Times, CBC and other publications in the Vancouver area have been flooded by ads on the newspaper's app, asking them to "say no" to Burnaby, B.C.'s new rules on natural gas. Posted by the group Voice for Energy, the ads appear to be referring to a recent decision by Burnaby city council that prohibits natural gas infrastructure in new buildings.

Voice for Energy bills itself as a platform for Canadians to "speak up" against municipalities implementing measures to reduce natural gas use to protect people's so-called "energy choice."

Modelled on the B.C. standard for low-carbon building, Burnaby's rules are among B.C.'s most aggressive. They require all large buildings to eliminate natural gas heating in 2024, six years ahead of the province's 2030 deadline for all communities to adopt similar bylaws.

While there was public consultation on the changes, the chance for input has passed. Burnaby's city council unanimously voted to approve the policy late last year, and the new rules took effect on January 1, 2024.

A councillor for a city explicitly targeted by online attacks ads from a shady group with ties to Canada's #gas industry wonders why her city is in the line of fire. #Burnaby #VoiceforEnergy

"They're so far behind the ball – we've already cemented these changes in our bylaws," said Burnaby councillor Alison Gu. Gu helped push the city's decision to adopt more stringent building rules and was a key advocate for the shorter implementation timeline.

"Anything is technically reversible by council, but at this point…it wouldn't make sense from a political, scientific or legislative point of view because all the parties impacted are working with the bylaw changes."

Gu guessed the group might have targeted Burnaby now because the city recently published highlights from council meetings, including a note celebrating the city's "very progressive" climate rules. Voice for Energy did not respond to interview requests from Canada's National Observer.

According to Voice for Energy's website, the group is a "national initiative of gas energy companies and stakeholders," who say they are protecting Canadians' so-called "energy choice." Its sleek website asks visitors to share the group on social media and contact their elected representatives to oppose laws restricting natural gas infrastructure.

Google's library lists ads posted by the group to its platform as belonging to CGA Enterprises, a venture of the Canadian Gas Association, Canada's largest natural gas lobby.

Gu said the only message she has received about Voice for Energy came through the organization's website. However, the person who sent it expressed support for Burnaby's climate efforts and alerted her to the group's existence.

The campaign comes as Canada's natural gas industry fights to halt a growing trend among municipalities to ban installation of natural gas infrastructure in new buildings. Preventing the proliferation of new gas infrastructure in favour of more sustainable alternatives is key to stopping gas use from becoming embedded for decades to come.

Natural gas is made from methane, a greenhouse gas about 80 times more powerful than carbon dioxide and is extracted from fossilized deposits. Experts warn we must stop using the fuel if we are to keep global heating within a safe limit. Burning the fuel in homes can generate harmful gases.

Moreover, Voice for Energy's claim it is trying to protect Canadians' "energy choice" is "disinformation," said Sunil Singal, director of Force of Nature, a Burnaby environmental organization, and climate campaigner at Stand.Earth.

"You wouldn't argue that people should have the choice to insulate with asbestos, or decorate with lead paint or build high rises without fire escapes," he said. Using natural gas is a similarly obsolete choice because safer, more sustainable alternatives like heat pumps are readily available.

Gu agreed that Voice for Energy's focus on protecting consumers' "energy choice" is problematic. Many people don't have a choice on how their homes are heated, particularly renters and homeowners without enough disposable income to retrofit them. Laws limiting the fuel's proliferation are key to ensuring people are not locked into using it for years.

"It is the most hypocritical argument of all," she said. "We don't, as consumers, have a choice."

Updates and corrections

| Corrections policy
January 17, 2024, 03:40 pm

Update: This story was updated on January 17, 2024 to note that Voice for Energy ads are also running on CBC's online platform.

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Natural gas is methane, simple. It is so typical for the fossil fuel industry to spread lies,mistruths, greenwash, etc. It is a self reporting industry on emissions and leaks. And a recent study by a university in Alberta found actual measured leaks were much greater than estimated. Can electricity provide heat for BC. Yup. Get with it BC Hydro. Your site c power is already used up

I wonder if the ad contracts explain the bizarre article in the NYT just yesterday about how they tested both gas and induction stoves for many pollutants, and did find that gas stoves pushed a couple of them up into danger territory, levels forbidden by the EPA.

DESPITE which, they couldn't really recommend a switch! ... because there are "things you can do to mitigate your risk". Like more ventilation, of course. But that's just blaming the victim: "Your kid got asthma, it's all your fault for not mitigating".

It seemed painfully obvious that they just couldn't actually recommend not using the product. Like they couldn't say "lie" about lies.

Voice for Energy? No question at all that they are the voice of dirty energy and think we can be deceived into thinking that they are real Canadians protecting the impoverished, such a joke. More like the Voice of Deception and Lies promalgating dirty industries propaganda about methane being safe.
A page out of 1930s Geramany."If you repeat a lie often enough, people will believe it, and you will even come to believe it yourself." ~ Joseph Goebbels