OPP should bill Greenpeace

The Hamilton Spectator: September 4, 2007

Opinion: Howard Elliott

Ontario Provincial Police Commissioner Julian Fantino must be a very busy guy. But we hope he'll take a minute to consider this idea.

Fantino should direct someone in the OPP business office to calculate and total any and all incremental costs associated with last week's Greenpeace stunt on Lake Erie, where so-called protesters first blocked a canal and then chained themselves to a coal freighter, painting appropriately quaint slogans on the ship's hull (it makes for a better photo op).

For days before the actual event, OPP had extra officers guarding the Nanticoke power generating station. There's overtime cost, fuel, charges for the air support and for operating the numerous police boats that were required. Total all these costs that would not have been incurred but for the glitzy media event.

Then send a nice bill on OPP stationery to Greenpeace headquarters, no doubt located in prime office real estate. Greenpeace is not some grassroots protest organization, it's a huge, multinational, affluent non-profit outfit. If it can afford to operate ships, it can afford to pay for its publicity stunts.

There's precedent for this. Back in 1997, Greenpeace ran a logging protest that stopped work at a British Columbia logging site. A judge later ruled it had to pay loggers for lost wages.

More recently, Greenpeace activists cut a 61-metre-long question mark inside a crop circle in an Abbotsford, B.C., cornfield, in a protest aimed at getting the government to label genetically engineered food. It later compensated the farmer for the value of the loss due to the vandalism.

This is no different. The taxpayers of Ontario pay for public safety resources and last week those resources were required to ensure the safety of those involved in and affected by this crass publicity stunt. Why should taxpayers be on the hook to support Greenpeace's antics, however well-intentioned? If Fantino agrees and sends Greenpeace the bill, we'd love to hear its response. You'd think any organization with an ethical mandate would do the right thing on that score.

Greenpeace has done some good work in the past. But this sort of stunt is outdated and out of step with most reasonable citizens. Greenpeacers would be better advised to spend their money -- and they're not short of that -- on communication, education, lobbying and forms of protest that don't endanger or inconvenience innocent people and taxpayers.

To most people, this sort of exercise just breeds frustration and cynicism and probably has the exact opposite effect Greenpeace would want. In short, it's time for a new schtick, folks. And maybe it's time for the media to just say no to that photo op, even if it does come with a ride aboard the Greenpeace ship.

2007 Torstar Corporation

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