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Ontario premier looking into online game showing bombing of pipeline

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TORONTO - Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne says she'll be looking into an online game partially paid for and promoted by a taxpayer-funded broadcaster that shows the bombing of a gas pipeline.

A blog post supporting the game appeared on the website of TV Ontario. It also provides a link to the game, called "Pipe Trouble," and offers a free trial.

But questions were raised Thursday about the game's introductory video, which appears to show activists protesting before a pipeline blows up.

The TVO blog describes "Pipe Trouble" as a "companion ethical game" to a documentary that deals with local opposition to pipelines and the bombing of pipelines in Peace River, B.C.

TVO says the game uses "over-the-top satire to cleverly explore the two sides of the energy extraction debate."

Wynne said Thursday she doesn't know anything about the game or TVO's involvement and would like more information before commenting on it.

"I know nothing about that," Wynne said.

"It sounds somewhat disturbing to me on the face of it. So I'm going to ask the Minister of Education to have that conversation about TVO because I think there does need to be a question asked about that."

Education Minister Liz Sandals issued a statement a few hours later acknowledging that there have been "some concerns" about the online game.

"The government, along with TVO, does not condone illegal activity," she said.

"That is why we have asked TVO to ensure that this online game adheres to their existing programming standards and does not condone such activity."

TVO denied suggestions that the game draws a link to the Keystone XL pipeline, which would ship oilsands crude from Alberta across the U.S. Midwest to refineries on in Texas.

The project has come under fire, with thousands of U.S. protesters showing up in Washington, D.C., last month to urge the 1,800-kilometre line be scrapped.

Canadian pipelines have been targets in the past. In 2000, anti-oilpatch activist Wiebo Ludwig was found guilty on five charges related to bombings and vandalism of oil and gas wells in northwestern Alberta.

Ten years later, his farm was searched by police for evidence related to six Encana gas pipeline bombings in B.C. Ludwig was never charged.

But the Keystone pipeline isn't mentioned at all in the documentary or the game, said TVO spokeswoman Jill Javet.

The game is meant to engage people actively on both sides of the pipeline debate, by allowing them to see the connection between their actions and the effect of those actions, she said.

It looks at the construction of a pipeline from the perspective of the pipe layer and the protester, she said. To get a perfect score, the player has to lay down as few pipes as possible while not disrupting the environment.

"So you have to build the pipeline as economically and as environmentally responsible as you can," Javet said.

As players go through the different levels, they're also given "news report snippets" that provide both pro-industry and environmental facts, she said.

TVO spent about $100,000 on both the documentary and the game, she said.

Documentaries and digital projects can take on provocative, complex and sometimes controversial subject matter, she said.

"TVO is not afraid to take on projects that enable people to understand better the world in which we live," she added. "That is fundamental to our role as a public broadcaster."

Players can buy the game for $1.99, with a portion of the proceeds going to the David Suzuki Foundation.

Progressive Conservative Vic Fedeli said it's not appropriate for the taxpayer-funded broadcaster to be promoting a game that makes money for another organization.

"It is a use of government funds to put a link towards funding one specific foundation," he said.

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