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Alberta energy war room not subject to freedom of information rules

The Alberta government’s decision to incorporate the Canadian Energy Centre means much of its operations will remain secret and not be subject to freedom-of-information legislation. 

NDP leader concerned about CEC lack of transparency under corporation rules

Energy Minister Sonya Savage addressed reporters at the Alberta Legislature on Wednesday shortly after announcing details of the new Canadian Energy Centre. (Scott Neufeld/CBC )

The Alberta government's decision to incorporate the Canadian Energy Centre means much of its operations will remain secret and not be subject to freedom-of-information legislation.

"The CEC's internal operations are not subject to FOIP, as this would provide a tactical and/or strategic advantage to the very foreign-funded special interests the CEC is looking to counter," Christine Myatt, press secretary to Premier Jason Kenney, said in an email. 

"For example, we would not let those foreign-funded special interests seeking to attack our province see our detailed defence plans."

NDP Leader Rachel Notley said she is concerned about the lack of transparency with the corporate model, which she insisted "was designed, at least in part, to keep Albertans from looking too deeply into who's being paid, how they're being paid, and what they're being paid.

"I think we have every right to be concerned," she told CBC News in an email. "This is a thing that could have absolutely have been done in-house." 

Myatt said information provided by the government of Alberta to the centre, and information the corporation provides to the government, is still subject to FOIP. 

"It should be noted that CEC is still subject to PIPA (Personal Information Protection Act), the Whistle-blowers' Act and to audit by the auditor general." Myatt also said in the email that the ministers of Justice, Energy and the Environment make up the CEC board of directors. 

'Freedom to be efficient'

The CEC will have a $30-million budget and work to counter what the government considers to be misinformation about Alberta's resource industry. 

On Wednesday, Energy Minister Sonya Savage announced Tom Olsen, a former journalist, lobbyist and spokesperson for former premier Ed Stelmach, would be the CEC managing director. 

Olsen was the UCP candidate in Calgary-Buffalo in the spring election, a seat won by Joe Ceci of the NDP.

Olsen will be paid $195,000 a year in his new job. 

Asked why the government was incorporating the CEC, Savage said it would make the organization more efficient. 

"One of the goals of the energy centre is to be able to respond rapidly, to anticipate what's coming at it. And we just felt within that structure it gave it more freedom to be efficient."

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