Kinder Morgan will pull advertising for its proposed Trans Mountain pipeline expansion during the federal election campaign, after a British Columbia New Democrat seeking reelection complained about a flurry of ads in local newspapers.
Kennedy Stewart sent a letter to Canada's elections commissioner earlier this week. He said if the company wants to promote a position on an election issue, it must register with Elections Canada as a third-party advertiser subject to spending limits.
"I have a very tough fight against my opponent in my riding," said Stewart, who is running in a Vancouver-area riding. "The last thing I need is multi-national companies also advertising during the election. Let's just have a fair playing field."
Stewart said he has not heard back from the commissioner, Yves Cote, but he called the office on Friday to confirm staff had received the letter and he was told the deputy commissioner was looking into it.
A spokeswoman for the Trans Mountain expansion said election officials had not contacted the company, but it has decided not to run advertising — in any format or community — until after the Oct. 19 vote.
"The information doesn't advocate for any particular party, policy or position," said Lizette Parsons Bell in a statement on Saturday.
"However, with the call of the election last weekend, we are rescheduling and the current series of advertising will end this weekend, due to the sensitivities around all forms of advertising."
Parsons Bell added the advertising had been in the market since September 2014 and was designed to "engage with and provide information to as many British Columbians as possible" about the company's history and safety.
Kinder Morgan hopes to triple the bitumen-carrying capacity of the Trans Mountain line by laying almost 1,000 kilometres of new pipe between Edmonton and Burnaby, increasing the number of tankers in Burrard Inlet to 34 from the current five per month.
The elections commissioner did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The Canada Elections Act states third-party advertising includes any message that "takes a position on an issue with which a registered party or candidate is associated."
Prime Minister Stephen Harper has pushed for oil sands development and pipeline growth, while NDP leader Tom Mulcair has been more cautious on the topic.
During Thursday's televised leaders' debate — during which Stewart said Trans Mountain aired a commercial — Green Party leader Elizabeth May pressed Mulcair to answer whether he opposed the expansion, but he only said he supports a stronger environmental review process.
Stewart said he does not support Trans Mountain under the current National Energy Board review, which has been criticized for excluding oral arguments and not considering climate change.
He added it was too late for Kinder Morgan to yank its ads.
"The law says that if they've spent over $500 they have to register as a third-party spender, and indeed they have," he said. "It sounds like they weren't aware, but ignorance is no excuse for breaking the law."