Jason Kenney touts $30M 'war room' but provides few details

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney spoke in Calgary with energy industry stakeholders but hasn't announced who will lead a so-called war room to counter what he calls lies spread by opponents of oil and gas development. 

Premier says plan to fight misinformation related to oil and gas will be based in Calgary

Premier Jason Kenney met with energy industry stakeholders in Calgary to discuss creating the "energy war room" that the UCP promised in the 2019 election campaign. (Mike Symington/CBC)

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney met Friday with "key industry stakeholders" in Calgary to discuss his government's plans to counter what he calls lies spread by opponents of oil and gas development.

The so-called war room will be based in Calgary but few details are available aside from its budget of $30 million.

Kenney did not answer questions about who will lead the war room but said an announcement will be coming on that soon.

"We'll be looking to collaborate with experts in communications in locations in key media markets around the world," said Kenney.

It will be funded in part by levies on major industrial emitters in Alberta, with $10 million repurposed from the existing Alberta government advertising budget.

"The deliverable is to expand public support for Canada's vital energy industry," said Kenney.

Opponents call war room a 'distraction'

Kenney and the United Conservative Party have positioned themselves as the saviours of Alberta's oilpatch and have vowed to aggressively defend the industry.

The premier has said government staff will be tasked with responding quickly to what he calls myths and lies. Kenney has also promised to fund lawsuits against offending environmentalists and to call a public inquiry into the role of money from U.S. foundations.

In an emailed statement, Greenpeace Canada slammed the UCP government's plan for a "war room." 

"Jason Kenney can spend $30 million on political theater to try to distract us," wrote the environmental group. "Shooting the messenger might make for great election campaign rhetoric, but ignoring inconvenient truths does nothing to prepare Alberta for the coming transition off of fossil fuels."

Stakeholders on stage Friday with Kenney included Tim McMillan, president and CEO of the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, and Vivian Krause, a B.C.-based researcher and blogger who estimated that various American funders have contributed roughly $40 million to anti-pipeline groups in recent years.

The premier often refers to environmentalists, or those opposed to aggressive development of Alberta's resources, as "foreign-funded radicals." In Friday's press conference, he repeated that concern.

That's a common refrain among activists for the energy sector, convinced of the theory that environmental groups in Canada were funded by U.S. organizations for the sole purpose of land locking Canadian oil and gas.

Kenney also re-itereated criticism of environmental activist Tzeporah Berman, who was appointed to a provincial oilsands advisory group in 2016.

Oil curtailment could be renewed

NDP-introduced legislation that capped oil production in this province is set to expire at the end of the year, and Kenney said his government had hoped to allow that deadline to pass without extending it. 

However, the premier said delays to the replacement of Enbridge's Line 3 along with high inventory levels could mean that doesn't happen.

"Our government will have to proceed cautiously," said Kenney, who added that his government "cannot allow" a severe oil price differential to occur.

Kenney repeats call for Senate to kill Bill C-48

Premier Kenney also spoke about Bill C-48, the federal government's bill to ban oil tanker traffic in northern B.C. waters, and re-iterated his position that the proposed law would negatively impact national unity.

Bill C-48 was allowed to proceed to third reading in the Senate on Thursday night. Kenney has said Alberta will launch a constitutional challenge if the bill is passed.

With files from Drew Anderson


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