Alberta Premier Jason Kenney and Energy Minister Sonya Savage were at the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology on Wednesday to officially launch the Canadian Energy Centre (CEC), formerly known as the Energy War Room.
The province says the CEC has three units: one for rapid response to misinformation, one for energy literacy to elevate general understanding of Canada’s energy sector, and another to centralize data and research to inform investors, researchers and policy makers.
“We were not doing nearly enough to tell the truth in response to a campaign of lies, of defamation and disinformation based on torqued, dated, incomplete and out of context attacks on our energy sector,” Kenney said.
The CEC has a $30 million budget, which also includes Alberta’s $2.5 million inquiry into foreign funding of anti-oil and gas campaigners. Kenney restated that $10 million of the budget has been “re-profiled” from existing Alberta government advertising spending. Funding will also come through carbon levies paid to the government by large industrial emitters.
The “central clearing house of information” will be the Canadian Energy Centre’s website, Kenney said. There is also a social media presence and a significant advertising budget to reach “multiple platforms and jurisdictions.”
“You might be in a London Tube station in the future and you’ll see an ad about responsibly produced Canadian energy. You might be a New York investor and see an ad in an economic magazine or an online media product about what we do so well and how we exceed global standards. You might be a British Columbian who sees a TV ad explaining why it’s in everybody’s interests that we complete the Trans Mountain Pipeline Expansion project, or you might be an Albertan and you just want to get a little bit more information about some aspect about energy in Canada and you would go to the website,” Kenney said.
“My hope is that someday in the future these facts will be so well known that we won’t need to invest so much in telling the truth, but right now we’re in the fight of our economic lives.”
The government is committed to running the CEC throughout its four-year term, he said. A performance evaluation will be conducted toward the end of the period to determine how effective the program has been.
Critics of the CEC strategy, such as Amnesty International Canada secretary general Alex Neve, argue it goes against freedom of speech, which Kenney rejected.
“Nobody is proposing to trample on anybody’s free speech… if there are organizations that use their free speech to put misinformation into the public sphere, we will respond. That’s not attacking free speech, it’s responding to the content of speech. That’s called public discourse, and the CEC will do it with respect, civility and professionalism.”