[Keystone XL pipeline] Ex-Tory message maven tailors his spin to oil sands – by Colin Freeze (Globe and Mail – July 28, 2011)

The Globe and Mail is Canada’s national newspaper with the second largest broadsheet circulation in the country. It has enormous influence on Canada’s political and business elite.

Alykhan Velshi, a 27-year-old who established himself in Ottawa as a master of messaging and a crucial cog in the Conservative machine, has a new job – he’s out to polish the image of Canada’s oil sands in the minds of freedom-loving people everywhere.

“When petroleum reserves were deposited around the world, it is unfortunate that they were all given to the world’s bastards,” he said. “With the exception of Canada, most of them are with the world’s bastards. You need to recognize that when you are buying oil.”

Never known for subtlety, Mr. Velshi now runs EthicalOil.org, a blog set to relaunch on Thursday. A few months ago, he was the communications director for Immigration Minister Jason Kenney. He was also an important part of the Tory war room that steamrolled the Liberal Party en route to victory.

During his years as a lawyer-turned-political-aide on the Hill, Mr. Velshi had a knack for generating publicity – and controversy. These days, he is very busy on his iPad, working to create provocative, even outrageous, Internet ads.

The message? The cruellest crude is “conflict oil” flowing from Venezuela, Saudi Arabia and Iran – this is the stuff that greases the wheels of “dictatorship,” fuels “terrorism” and even results in “women stoned to death.”

Is there an alternative? You bet. The ads argue that Canada’s oil generates taxable revenues that are used to help fund “democracy,” “peacekeeping” and even Pride Day parades for gays and lesbians.

The choice couldn’t be presented more starkly. “When people buy coffee, they want to buy fair-trade coffee. This is a similar sort of idea,” Mr. Velshi said.

Ethical oil is not a new concept. The pundit Ezra Levant first popularized it a couple of years ago in a hardcover book. When Mr. Levant moved on to Sun TV this spring, he handed over the reins to his friend, Mr. Velshi.

Now that he’s inherited the EthicalOil.org blog, he wants to drive home the messaging with short, sharp bursts of social media. “We don’t have an office,” he said. “It’s just words and pictures and YouTube videos. And I’m trying to keep it that way.”

Mr. Velshi says he is not paying himself a salary. A PayPal button on the website is being used to gather small donations for media projects.

For the rest of this article, please go to the Globe and Mail website: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/politics/ex-tory-message-maven-tailors-his-spin-to-oil-sands/article2112313/

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