Barely open two weeks and already the Canadian Energy Centre is mired in controversy
The Canadian Energy Centre – aka the Alberta energy war room – is quickly becoming a joke, rocked by incompetence and mini-scandals. Premier Jason Kenney is probably ruing his decision to commit $120 million to the lightning rod for controversy.
The latest imbroglio is flat out odd.
On Wednesday, former Calgary Herald graphic designer Edwin Mundt tweeted about his startling discovery: “Why did the Canadian Energy Centre nick the logo of British Software company Progress? $30 million and they couldn’t do a trademark search?”
Mundt tweeted that the “logo thing just fell into my lap. I set out originally to make a parody in Photoshop. Ran it through Google Image Search and whammo! It was identical. I was stunned.”
The company in question, Progress, is actually headquartered in Massachusetts. It tweeted that it is looking into the trademark infringement.
Centre CEO Tom Olsen issued a statement blaming its agency, Lead & Anchor, for the error. “This is an unfortunate situation, but we’re committed to making the necessary corrections to our visual brand,” he said. “We understand this was a mistake and we are in discussions with our agency to determine how it happened.”
Lead & Anchor was chosen from nine candidates that were supposedly “vetted” by Communo, a Calgary startup that uses an app to connect a stable of advertising and communications professionals with clients, including other small operations looking for specialized sub-contractors.
“It’s like Tinder, but for creative professionals looking for work or agencies looking to hire contingent workers for a specific project,” CEO Ryan Gill explained in a 2018 interview. “If I land a big contract with a client, and I need 10 people to help me with web design, copywriting, etc., I can post jobs on the app and a curated list of members who think they can help respond by applying directly to me.”
In that interview, Gill says Communo does vet contractors: “Our members are pre-vetted and ready to be hired with the click of a button.”
There is plenty of blame to go around. Lead & Anchor – which after the story broke made its website private, not a good move in the face of intense public scrutiny – either made an honest mistake or tried to slip one by its client. Communo’s vetting process appears deficient; the company did not respond to an interview request by the time of publication.
Ultimately, the responsibility falls on the shoulders of Olsen and his merry band of energy warriors. Alberta taxpayers are rightly asking why a government-owned corporation with $30 million per year of their hard-earned dollars didn’t hire a reputable agency that knows better than to plagiarize a trademarked logo.
Mundt says it took him all of three seconds to discover the resemblance to the Progress logo, which appears to be identical to that of the Canadian Energy Centre, just a different colour.
If the story ended here, Albertans could enjoy a chuckle over their coffees and pilsners, then move on to more important matters, like the Oilers and Flames. Unfortunately for Olsen, there’s more.
It turns out the Centre’s social media profile photo is an urban street shot from Toronto. For an organization that began life as the Alberta energy war room – Premier Kenney’s description – in a province that derides all things Eastern Canadian, this was a curious choice.
An even more curious choice was to not remove the pilfered logo while waiting for the Centre’s “visual identity” to be reworked. As of late Friday morning, the offending graphic was still on the Centre’s website and social media accounts, a day after Olsen publicly responded to the controversy.
Social media lit up once more. Why would the Centre continue to violate Progress’ trademark for apparently no good reason?
Veteran Calgary communications expert and CBC TV “The Dragon’s Den” alumnus Arlene Dickinson tweeted, “Hey @CDNEnergyCentre How are you still using a logo that you know is identical to another firms [sic]? At the very least take yours down while you sort out the mess. What was the process for selecting the firms managing our 120mm? Why aren’t you being advised to remove this?”
Why not, indeed.
By itself, the logo fiasco is a tempest in a teapot, but when considered alongside other Centre missteps, a disturbing trend is emerging.
For example, after reporter Jeremy Appel of the Medicine Hat News wrote a scathing column about the war room late last week, the Grady Semmens, director of content and external relations promised to provide an op-ed “that we will provide a response to clarify many of the comments and inaccuracies in Mr. Appel’s column.” Instead, they provided a risible bit of fluff that failed to directly address any of Appel’s concerns.
Another example: some of the more technical articles contain errors of fact or grossly simplify complex issues. Energi Media will soon be publishing a response to engineer Zsolt Vigh’s article, “If you care about climate change, here’s why you should support Canadian natural gas.” Vigh’s conclusion, that “Canadian LNG is a clear climate win” if it displaces coal in Asian power-generation is not entirely wrong, but it ignores research that calls into question the quality of methane emissions data for the Western Canadian natural gas supply chain.
That makes the article marketing or propaganda, not “truth,” which is what the Centre claims to provide for Canadians.
All in all, the Canadian Energy Centre has barely been up two weeks and already it is mired in controversies.
Can the war room pick itself off the mat and still win the match? Maybe, but if things don’t change in a hurry, the better guess is that a steady diet of piledrivers and backbreakers are the more likely fate for the Canadian Energy Centre.
Surely not what Kenney had in mind when he envisioned the war room as part of his vaunted “pushback strategy” against the “foreign-funded activists” peddling “lies and misinformation” about the Alberta oil and gas sector.
The Canadian Energy Centre did not respond to an Energi Media request for an interview.