Alberta's energy 'war room' targeted by environmental activists, minister says

Sonya Savage expects the Canadian Energy Centre will be less active on social media as it prioritizes other areas.

Sonya Savage expects Canadian Energy Centre will be less active on social media as it prioritizes other areas

Alberta Energy Minister Sonya Savage says the same kind of activists that have gone after pipeline projects and tried to discredit industry regulators are now targeting Alberta's energy 'war room.' (Monty Kruger/CBC)

The same kind of activists that have gone after pipeline projects and tried to discredit regulators are now targeting Alberta's energy 'war room,' says the province's energy minister.

"We recognize that it hasn't been a smooth launch," Sonya Savage told reporters Wednesday.

"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 made the remarks in response to questions about the centre's performance and how Albertans perceive the organization.

She didn't point a finger at specific groups but said she's seen such "organized opposition" used before to undermine pipeline projects and the National Energy Board.

"That said, we're not stopping," Savage said in Calgary. 

"We need the Canadian Energy Centre now more than ever."

Keith Stewart, senior energy strategist for Greenpeace Canada, has been critical of the centre but laughed at the notion there's an organized environmental campaign against it.

"It's like you bought a $30-million rake and you keep stepping on it," Stewart said in an interview.

"The war room itself is doing the best possible job of discrediting that whole effort."

The province launched the centre in December with a $30-million annual budget.

It was part of the "fight-back" strategy the United Conservative Party campaigned on during the April 2019 election. 

But the centre has faced criticism amid a number of missteps, including a recent series of social media blunders targeting the New York Times that prompted an apology from its managing director

At a news conference last week, Premier Jason Kenney refused to evaluate the performance of the CEC. Instead, he said he was looking forward to the launch of its major marketing programs.

Savage also stood by the centre Wednesday. 

She anticipates the organization will be less active on social media while prioritizing other areas of its mandate, such as providing energy research and statistics, as well as launching a traditional advertising campaign.

Stewart said the centre has a tough job ahead, though, trying to advance arguments that were great campaign slogans but don't pass muster with investors concerned about the future of fossil fuels.

"Change is coming whether Jason Kenney wants it or not," he said.

With files from Michelle Belfontaine


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