Alberta's energy war room now called Canadian Energy Centre

"The economic future of our province – and our country – is at stake, and our government will not let Albertans down," Energy Minister Sonya Savage said Wednesday.

Former UCP candidate Tom Olsen appointed managing director

Tom Olsen has been appointed managing director of the Alberta government's Canadian Energy Centre. (Justin Pennell/CBC)

The Alberta government's energy war room has a new name — The Canadian Energy Centre — and former UCP candidate Tom Olsen has been appointed its managing director.

"I look forward to the official launch of the Canadian Energy Centre before the end of the year," Energy Minister Sonya Savage said in a news release Wednesday. "The economic future of our province – and our country – is at stake, and our government will not let Albertans down."

The energy centre "will focus on improving perceptions about the oil and gas industry," Savage said. "Once fully functional, it will be a leading and authoritative voice on Alberta's energy resources."

Savage said she chose the word Canadian to be in the title because the centre will work on the global stage when talking to investors.

"I think the word Canada is reflective of that, and we also know that when the energy sector prospers, the entire country prospers," Savage said. "So, it is more than just an Alberta issue. It's a Canadian issue."

The war room was a United Conservative Party promise during April's provincial election.

Premier Jason Kenney announced its creation in June, saying at the time it would have a budget of $30 million.

Savage said Wednesday the centre will have three business units:

  • A rapid-response unit to issue "swift responses to misinformation spread through social media."
  • An energy literacy unit to "create original content to elevate the general understanding of Alberta's energy sector, and help the province take control of its energy story."
  • A data and research unit to centralize and analyze data "to reinforce this story with factual evidence for investors, researchers and policy makers."

NDP energy critic Irfan Sabir said it appears that $30 million will be spent "to tweet out things at other Canadians."

"I didn't hear anything [about] how this twitter machine will help us get our product to market, how it will help us build [the] Trans Mountain pipeline," Sabir said.

He said there are other ways the money could be spent more wisely, including classroom improvements, or saving the jobs of health-aid workers in Vegreville who will be laid off by Nov. 1.

"I don't think it's a responsible thing to do," Sabir said of the centre.

Olsen, a veteran political journalist who served as spokesperson for former premier Ed Stelmach, ran for the United Conservative Party in April's provincial election. He lost in Calgary-Buffalo to the NDP's Joe Ceci.

Olsen "will begin to operationalize the corporation immediately," Savage said. He will establish priority action items for each of the centre's three units, she said.

His annual salary will be $195,000, a spokesperson for the premier's office told CBC News.