New Yorker writer A.J Liebling said: "Freedom of the press is guaranteed only to those who own one". It turns out that in Canada, the same thing applies to billboards. Most of them in Canada are owned by Jim Pattison, who started his career selling cars and is now the largest car retailer in British Columbia. (He is also the third richest man in Canada and owns the Guinness Book of Records.)
So perhaps it is no surprise that after Greenpeace rented a billboard in Edmonton, the capital of Alberta, it was rejected by the Pattison Group. Greenpeace complains:
“It’s absolutely unbelievable that the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers can put up billboards across the country comparing toxic tar sands to yogurt, but a Greenpeace billboard comparing the benefits of solar energy to the risk of pipeline spills is rejected. It’s mind blowing,” said Mike Hudema, climate and energy campaigner with Greenpeace Canada.
Now I can understand why a car dealer might be a fan of the tar sands, but this ad was pretty inoffensive and really, more in support of solar energy than anything else. Hudema continues:
In a democracy, we need to be able to publicly question our government especially when they are unwilling to protect our communities or our water systems. Now we can’t even buy an ad that upsets the oil industry or their friends in government. This culture of silence is another reason why we can’t trust government or industry and why we need an independent body to assess how safe Alberta really is.
Indeed. This won't get in the Guinness book of Records for the most extreme and egregious example of suppression of dissent, but it is disturbing nonetheless.