The Jason Kenney government in Alberta is amping up its grievance meter another notch, with the claim that environmental activists are targeting the fossil energy “war room” his government is funding with C$30 million in taxpayers’ funds.
“We recognize that it hasn’t been a smooth launch,” Energy Minister and former pipeline executive Sonya Savage told media last week. “There’s been some bumps. That was to be expected. I mean…the Canadian Energy Centre has been targeted by the same environmental activists and green left that went after every single pipeline project that got killed.”
She added that, “that said, we’re not stopping,” since “we need the Canadian Energy Centre now more than ever.”
From the moment it launched, the war room has drawn concerns about its fact-checking, as well as its potential use as a “partisan weapon against Kenney’s political enemies”, real or perceived, iPolitics reported at the time. “Kenney has publicly said the war room will target politicians, media, and other ‘opinion leaders’,” and “before the Alberta election last spring, Kenney promised to set up a government-sponsored ‘fully staffed, rapid response war room’ that would ‘effectively rebut every lie told by the green left’.”
The province also raised flags by incorporating the Energy Centre as a private entity exempt from access to information laws, rather than a Crown corporation.
But when the war room actually launched, the rebuttals were flowing in the other direction, with Greenpeace Canada Senior Energy Strategist Keith Stewart pointing out it wasn’t doing so well with that data and research thing. “Good morning, @CDNEnergyCentre rapid response team,” he tweeted. “It’s been 17 hours since I tagged you re 3 climate-related misrepresentations on your ‘Welcome to Cdn Energy Centre’ page. You corrected the error re being a Crown corporation, so I hope you will correct the record on climate.”
Then earlier this month, the war room had to apologize for a social media post that questioned the New York Times’ credibility and accused it of anti-Semitism.
Savage didn’t name any of the groups she claimed were targeting the war room, but Stewart “laughed at the notion there’s an organized environmental campaign against it,” CBC reports.
“It’s like you bought a $30-million rake and you keep stepping on it,” he said. “The war room itself is doing the best possible job of discrediting that whole effort.”
Savage hinted at a change in strategy for the centre, with a lower profile on social media and more emphasis on (no doubt utterly unbiased) research and statistics and a traditional advertising campaign.
But Stewart said the war room might find it tough to translate Kenney’s tough campaign rhetoric into practical messages for investors concerned about the fossil industry’s future prospects. “Change is coming whether Jason Kenney wants it or not,” he told CBC.