‘Really good content’ from the TC tower

When a story keeps unravelling, it takes two newsletters to paint the whole picture. This week, we dive into more claims from the TC Energy recording leaks: former Trump staffers, an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal and seven steps in an influence playbook
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Two people walk down a sidewalk in front of a large commercial building with a "TC Energy" sign at the entrance. They pass through a large sculpture: a twisted spiral segment of stacked sheet metal forms tied through with three large rods. Photo is illustrated with a yellowish tint.

Former Trump staffers gathering intelligence on geopolitical crises and working with the head of Canada’s spy agency. Getting “really good content” published in a major U.S. newspaper that decries the Biden administration’s pause on LNG. Using Indigenous leaders as “validators” to sway government decisions. 

These are just some more claims that TC Energy executives made at internal “lunch and learn” sessions, recorded and leaked to The Narwhal. (You might recall me telling you about some of this in last week’s newsletter; sometimes, a story is just way too big to distill into one email!)

Ever since we published the first couple of pieces on the leaked recordings, The Narwhal’s northwest B.C. reporter, Matt Simmons, and managing editor, Mike De Souza, haven’t let up on all the other details they heard while transcribing and verifying them. 

In our first pieces in this series, we reported that a former TC executive claimed to have gotten pro-pipeline messaging “stuck on government letterhead” and to have strategically placed workers to rub shoulders with key political figures at their local Costco. This week, we detailed how an ex-staffer to former U.S. president Donald Trump talked about how executives based in Washington, D.C., worked to influence Canadian policies — including supplying the head of Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) industry-friendly proposals to help TC access classified information.

An abstract illustration of a puppet.
Fossil fuel execs outlined a 7-part playbook to influence governments and media

After we asked TC Energy about all of the claims, one of the officials said he had resigned from the company and that some of his recorded comments described events that never actually happened. But TC Energy hasn’t given us straight answers about a number of the claims made on their internal calls.

For example, other executives discussed how they parsed through “Russian-state propaganda” and supplied content to the Wall Street Journal — which they say was published in an op-ed signed by the paper’s editorial board.

“I wouldn’t say this much outside the walls of the TC tower, but this editorial wouldn’t have happened without our involvement,” Edward Burrier, TC Energy’s director of public policy, said on one of the calls. “Our communications team packaged that for the Journal editorial page and they went with it, … so some really impactful teamwork there.”

Our series of investigations has also been reported on by the Guardian, Politico, the Breach, the Vancouver Sun and the National Observer.

That’s not all: those on the calls discussed seven steps in their alleged playbook to influence governments and the media. Check out all their claims over here, with audio files you can listen to yourself — plus an action-packed GIF by our creative director Shawn Parkinson, who’s been the visual lead on our series. And visit this page to take a look at our five-part investigation — with more to come.

Take care and tell your friends The Narwhal has really good content,

Karan Saxena
Audience engagement editor
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P.S. Matt, Mike and the rest of our team are only able to spend weeks on investigations like this because of readers like you. Will you join the 6,400-plus members who give what they can to support The Narwhal’s independent journalism?

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Four people, including Gordon Eason, centre, work together to untangle netting

(Photo: Christian Schroeder)

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Remembering a tireless caribou advocate

This week, I learned that a very beloved source I’ve called on over the years, Gordon Eason, died last fall. Gord, a retired biologist who had worked for the Ontario government, dedicated the final years of his life to advocating for the Lake Superior caribou herds he helped rekindle earlier in his career. After I wrote about the herd, he kept me updated on their well-being with beautifully-written dispatches from his visits to the herd’s island sanctuary. 

Gord was a wise, kind and hilarious person with a lot of love for the natural world and a real talent for drawing in others, too. I’ll miss his insights — it was hard not to be pulled into a yarn with him as the narrator. Aside from his work on caribou in northwestern Ontario, Gord had a long and distinguished career spent caring for land and wildlife. You can read more about him here. We send our condolences to Gord’s family.

Emma McIntosh, Ontario reporter

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This week in The Narwhal

A cloverleaf highway interchange in the Ontario Greenbelt, near the proposed location of Highway 413
Ontario has ‘no commitment to a timeline’ for finishing Highway 413, document shows
By Emma McIntosh
The Ford government says it will start building Highway 413 next year despite having no final design for the project, no finished environmental assessment and no planned opening date.

A westslope cutthroat trout in the Elk River, hooked on a fishing line
Food harvested near Teck coal mines higher in selenium than grocery store food, health risk study shows 
By Ainslie Cruickshank
Several people unload cases of bottled water from a van in a parking lot
How heat islands in the Great Lakes affect human health
By Lisa John Rogers
Winnipeg South Member of Parliament Terry Duguid stands facing reporters at a podium that reads "taking action on climate change"
From farms to high rises, grants support Manitoba transition from fossil fuels
By Julia-Simone Rutgers

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What we’re reading

A B.C. forestry giant announced it would defer logging on 400 square kilometres of land it owns and instead sell carbon credits. The credibility of the program is under scrutiny after an audit gave it a failing grade, The Globe and Mail’s Wendy Stueck reports.

You might have caught recent stories in The Narwhal about how much it stinks to live near a landfill — and those are the regulated ones. Contractors to major developers in Montreal are cutting costs by dumping waste illegally on Kanien’kehá:ka (Mohawk) territory, Christopher Curtis reports for The Rover.

For Vox, Allie Volpe urges you to talk to your kids about climate disasters and prepare them for the future.
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Remember to take breaks while combing through The Narwhal’s latest investigative journalism. (It’s a lot — we get it!) After a quick nap, why not tell a friend to subscribe to this newsletter so they’ll be in the know, too?
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