News / Ottawa

Loonie campaign sticking it to Energy East pipeline

Ecology Ottawa is putting the pipeline debate in your pocket, in the form of oil-slicked loonie stickers that protest the controversial Energy East pipeline.

Estelle Morin, one of the loonie campaign co-ordinators, shows off a dressed-up coin.

Emma Jackson/Metro

Estelle Morin, one of the loonie campaign co-ordinators, shows off a dressed-up coin.

If you’ve found an oil-slicked loonie in your pocket lately, you’re not going loony – you’re just an unwitting participant in the latest anti-pipeline campaign.

Ecology Ottawa has been hacking loonies with its black decals to protest TransCanada’s proposed Energy East pipeline, which, if approved, will take 1.1 million barrels of crude oil across the Rideau River daily.

Up to 100,000 coins now show Canada’s iconic loon floating on a black, oil-slicked lake, along with the website

If it seems alarmist, that’s the point, said Ecology Ottawa director Graham Saul.

“This is an alarming issue,” he said. “The dangers are real.”

The loonies could also be alarming in vending machines and coin counters, though.

According to Christine Aquino with the Royal Canadian Mint, if the sticker’s too thick or hanging off the edge, it could jam the machine. Or the coin could be rejected if the decal adds too much weight.

“Some vending machines have quite tight tolerances,” Aquino said.

But Saul said his group hasn’t heard any complaints – from customers or the mint – since the campaign launched in December.

The stickers aren’t illegal, either, he said. While it’s certainly against the law to deface money, the decals peel off, so they don’t count.

“If the mint has concerns, they haven’t raised them with us,” Saul said.

The mint did threaten fines and prison time in 2009 when a Victoria, B.C. group launched a similar campaign against oil tankers, but Aquino said the finance ministry now deals with those issues. The ministry couldn’t be reached for comment.

Saul said the bigger issue is putting the pipeline conversation in people’s pockets.

“We want an informed and engaged population in the city of Ottawa, talking about this issue, understanding it and understanding the threats,” he said. “There are a lot of people in Ottawa who still don’t even know.”

He said the campaign is “a clever way” of reaching people who are otherwise unfamiliar with the issue.

The 4,600-kilometre pipeline would carry bitumen from western Canada to Maritime refineries, passing through Stittsville, Richmond and North Gower along the way.

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