Alberta defends oilsands in ads

The province of Alberta has launched an advertising campaign aimed at improving the image of the oilsands.
The Alberta government is running newspaper ads to counter recent anti-oilsands campaigns. ((CBC))

The province of Alberta has launched an advertising campaign aimed at improving the image of the oilsands.

The key Alberta industry is an increasingly frequent target of environmental groups who say that extracting oil from the sand produces too much greenhouse gas and scars the province's northern landscape.

Greenpeace demonstrators rappelled from the Calgary Tower on Tuesday, unfurling a banner denouncing what they say is a too-close relationship between the oilsands industry and government.

And last month, U.S.-based Corporate Ethics International unveiled billboards urging Americans to reconsider travel plans to Alberta because of the oilsands.

But a half-page ad in Thursday's Winnipeg Free Press paid for by the Alberta government counters that view.

"There are a whole pile of things going on to develop cleaner energy in the oilsands that are not being told in Greenpeace and some of the other campaigns out there," said provincial spokesman Jerry Bellikka.

A cable shovel loads a heavy hauler at the Muskeg River mine oilsands development north of Fort McMurray, Alta. ((Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press))

The $268,000-campaign is running in Winnipeg because the provincial premiers are gathered there for a meeting of the Council of the Federation.

"We supervise and strictly limit water use, monitor air quality 24/7 and require by law that any land used for tailings ponds be returned to a productive state," says the ad, printed against a green background.

The messages are also appearing in Alberta newspapers.

Alberta Premier Ed Stelmach has said that he wants to reinforce the national importance of the oilsands at the meeting in Winnipeg.

Stelmach said he wants to make sure other premiers realize that the oilsands contribute to Canada's economy, create jobs and provide a secure energy source for North America.

Alberta should have started defending the oilsands industry sooner, said University of Calgary marketing professor Debi Andrus.

"By being silent, they allowed more room for the protesters or for the negative aspect to be given the front page," said Andrus.

If the industry continues to come under attack, the ad campaign might be expanded, the province said.

With files from The Canadian Press