Kenney spending $30 million on ‘energy war room’ to combat $1 million of Tar Sands Campaign funding

Premier Jason Kenney has followed through on his election campaign promise and announced the “energy war room.” The purpose of the initiative is to “fight back against this campaign against Alberta that is often funded by foreign interests.” Not surprisingly, Vivian Krause and her debunked conspiracy narrative about the Tar Sands Campaign figured prominently in the announcement by Kenney and Energy Minister Sonya Savage.

“Thanks in a large part to the research of Vivian Krause, we know that the foreign-funded ‘Tar Sands’ campaign has links to bills C-69 and C-48, which are detrimental to the interests of Alberta’s responsible energy sector,” Savage said in a release. “Our Energy War Room will be a platform to amplify what has been uncovered by research from Ms. Krause, and other industry stakeholders who have been on the front lines of the effort to combat the misinformation about Alberta’s energy.”

Energi Media published an extensive investigative report detailing Krause’s errors of fact and analysis.

For instance, 2019 funding from American foundations is less than $1 million and had been declining since 2015, facts never divulged by Krause, who has made a career of incorrectly claiming that the Tar Sands Campaign sabotaged all recent pipeline projects intended to carry Alberta crude oil to market.

Contributions from the American foundations averaged just $4 million over the 11-year life of the campaign, which began in 2008. Based on interviews with more than a dozen Environmental Non-government Organizations (ENGOs) that were members of the loose Tar Sands Campaign coalition, Energi Media estimates that between 80 per cent and 90 per cent of the campaign’s funding was provided by Canadian individuals, foundations, and corporations.

This contradicts the Premier’s claim that the “campaign against Alberta that is often funded by foreign interests.”

The government’s release also parroted the industry’s talking point “that the world needs more energy produced by jurisdictions with responsible energy development, reclamation and environmental standards,” which is contradicted by the 1.3 trillion litres of oil sands mine tailings ponds in northern Alberta, as well as the growing problem of un-reclaimed orphan wells.

In fact, many of Premier Kenney’s claims about ENGOs being responsible for delaying the Trans Mountain Expansion pipeline project are not supported by the evidence. As I argued in this video, Kenney himself and former Premier Rachel Notley were hoodwinked by BC Premier John Horgan into starting the 2018 war of words between BC and Alberta that ultimately convinced proponent Kinder Morgan that the risk created by “inter-jurisdictional disputes” was too great for its investors.

Energi Media has argued that a better strategy than pushing back with an energy war room is engagement and dialogue with those who support Alberta’s energy infrastructure rather than fighting with the minority that does not. Public opinion polling shows very clearly that a majority of Canadians support pipeline projects. Even in British Columbia, more citizens support the Trans Mountain Expansion project than oppose it, despite Metro Vancouver being the heart of the Canadian environmental movement.

The energy war room is an unnecessary waste of tax dollars at a time when the Alberta government is running huge budget deficits. The biggest risk, however, is that Alberta belligerence will alienate more Canadians than it will convert to supporters, which could lead to even less public support for energy infrastructure.

Beware unintended consequences, Premier Kenney, in this case they could be dire.

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