Jane Fonda 'dining out on celebrity' but starved for facts, Alberta premier says

Alberta Premier Rachel Notley says the latest Hollywood celebrity to slam Alberta's oilsands region and the province's continued efforts to gain approval for new pipelines, was "tone deaf" and "ill-informed" and ducked the chance to meet with her government.

Actress's comments made it 'very clear she did not know what she was talking about,' Rachel Notley says

Jane Fonda urges Alberta to reject pipelines

6 years ago
Duration 1:45
Actress Jane Fonda attended a panel discussion in Edmonton Wednesday and criticized both the Alberta government and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

Alberta Premier Rachel Notley says the latest Hollywood celebrity to slam Alberta's oilsands region and the province's continued efforts to gain approval for new pipelines, was "tone deaf" and "ill-informed" and ducked the chance to meet with her government.

Actress and activist Jane Fonda spent the past two days in Alberta, where she flew over the oilsands, lunched in Fort McMurray, and held two media events in Edmonton, at which she blasted Canada's prime minister for betraying his government's commitments made at the Paris climate talks.

During her own camera time Wednesday, hours after B.C. announced it will approve Kinder Morgan's Trans Mountain pipeline expansion, Notley returned fire at Fonda.

"I would suggest if someone was going to come to Alberta ... [and] fly over a city that is going through a significant economic downturn, that's just been through the largest natural disaster in the history of Canada, and then lecture them about where they should get jobs elsewhere, first of all, that's super tone deaf," Notley said.

'Super tone deaf' : Rachel Notley slams Jane Fonda's visit to Fort Mac

6 years ago
Duration 0:45
Jane Fonda visited Alberta Thursday for a panel discussion on the oilsands, pushing back against pipelines and further oil and gas development. The premier said Fonda "didn't know what she was talking about."

"But secondly, I would suggest that dining out on your celebrity is something that one ought to also pair with knowledge and research. She failed to do that."

Notley said Fonda's visit earned more media attention than it deserved, given the fact the Oscar-winning actress and long-time activist made it "very clear she did not know what she was talking about."

'Ill-informed generalizations'

The Alberta government offered Fonda the chance to meet and discuss the issues but was turned down.

Instead, she said, Fonda "used the amplification of her celebrity to promote ill-informed generalizations."

The premier's comments came hours after Fonda accused Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of betraying commitments made at the international climate talks in Paris in late 2015.

"When I heard that your prime minister, the shining hope at the ... Paris climate talks, who talked so beautifully about needing to meet the requirements of the climate treaty, and respect and hold to the treaties with the Indigenous people, and so forth — such a heroic stance he took there," Fonda said. "And yet he has betrayed every one of the things that he committed to in Paris.

"I guess the lesson is we shouldn't be fooled by good-looking liberals, no matter how well spoken they are. What a disappointment."

Fonda and three Indigenous chiefs, along with Canadian activist and actress Barbara Williams, attended the panel discussion Wednesday to criticize the federal government's approval of Enbridge's Line 3 and Kinder Morgan's Trans Mountain pipelines.

'Expose these guys for what they are'

The only way to stop pipelines and further oil and gas development, Fonda said, is for people to raise their voices and use the ballot box to make politicians pay the price for their support of such projects.

"You know, let's see the popularity bar — or whatever you call them — for your prime minister and our president-elect plummet," Fonda said. "Let them plummet. Let them hit rock bottom. Let us expose these guys for what they are."

A spokesperson for Natural Resources Minister Jim Carr said the federal government believes the environment and economy go hand in hand.

Jane Fonda met with Cleo Desjarlais Reece of the Fort McMurray First Nation on Tuesday. (David Thurton/CBC)

"The oilsands are an important source of jobs and economic prosperity for Canadians," said press secretary Alexandre Deslongchamps. "We believe we can only develop our natural resources when we can do so sustainably. That's why we are putting a price on carbon pollution, strengthening environmental and safety standards, and making real investments in clean technology."

Fonda was in Fort McMurray on Tuesday to meet with Indigneous leaders and environmentalists. Outside a Moxie's restaurant she was approached by oilsands advocates and residents who criticized the 79-year-old actress's agenda.

"We're not here to trash Alberta, to trash Fort McMurray or the men and women who work in the tar sands, that's not our purpose," Fonda said at the panel discussion. "We are at a moment in human history that is absolutely unique, this has never happened before."

The discussion began with an impassioned plea from Allan Adam, chief of the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation, whose community is downstream from Alberta's oilsands region.

Adams said his people continue to die from cancer at alarmingly high rates, a fact he blamed on oilsands developments.

Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation Chief Allan Adam blames the high cancer rate in his community on oilsands development. (CBC)
 "I am not an environmentalist, I am a land user, I am a provider," he said. "Whatever food I'm bringing in from the bush, it is getting our people sick."

The chief said he had hoped that after four decades of Conservative rule in Alberta, things would be different when the NDP government came to power in May 2015.

But under the Rachel Notley government, he said, it's business as usual, with the province still pushing for more pipelines the panelists agreed are unnecessary.

Takes questions

"I feel very, very ashamed to call myself an Albertan," Adam said. "I feel very, very ashamed to call myself a Canadian citizen."

For her part, Fonda warned that the world is running out of time to solve the problem of climate change and protect the planet.

Taking questions after the panel discussion, Fonda was asked if the Alberta government's climate change plan, which includes phasing out coal-fired power plants, gives Alberta the "social licence" to build more pipelines.​

When you're famous, you can help by amplifying the voices of people that can't necessarily get the press.- Jane Fonda

"Well, that's ridiculous!" Fonda shouted. "That's absolutely ridiculous." 

She said "the little piddling things" that Canadian politicians have committed to do, such as phasing out coal or land reclamation, are only small steps that don't add up to much.

"At least they're trying to turn some things back to what they were, part way," she said. "[But] if you put together all these little things that they're doing, it doesn't add up to much in the face to what new drilling and extraction of the tarsands, or the North Dakota pipeline, or any of the new infrastructure that's being planned here and in the United States would do in terms of emissions. There's no equivalency at all."

Amplifying the voices

Deron Bilous, Alberta's minister of economic development and trade, said the government offered to meet Wednesday with Fonda and other panel members.

"We offered her and her team a briefing as far as the initiatives the government of Alberta is undertaking with our climate leadership strategy and our plan," he said. "Frankly, they accepted this briefing and didn't show up. I can tell you that their facts, unfortunately, are outdated."

After the panel discussion, several reporters asked Fonda why Albertans should listen to a celebrity outsider.

"When you're famous," she said, "you can help by amplifying the voices of people that can't necessarily get the press."​