In December 2019, the Alberta government launched the Canadian Energy Centre. The new UCP government had fulfilled its election promise of an energy “war room” that would “fight fake news and share the truth about Alberta’s resource sector and energy issues.” 

The promise has turned out to be a huge embarrassment replete with plagiarized logos, staff posing as reporters, a misguided attack on the New York Times, and mixing a little fake news in with its oil industry promotion.

The war room’s general, CEO/Managing Director Tom Olsen, has been forced on occasion to apologize for his troops. Olsen ran for the UCP in my constituency. He lost. Chief of the centre appears to have been his consolation prize. Comments such as “We are not about attacking; we are about disproving true facts” have not helped his credibility.

Perhaps even Premier Kenney is growing tired of his exercise in futility. Driven partly by the province’s crashing economy, he recently cut the centre’s budget by 90 percent, from an original $30-million a year to $2.8-million.

In recognition of the government losing faith, I would like to make a modest proposal to put the institution to good use. The promise was to “share the truth about Alberta’s resource sector and energy issues,” so why not use it to tell the most important truth of all about oil and energy, namely the reality of global warming.

The war room has not convinced opponents of Canada’s oil and gas industry to change their minds, nor is it attracting investment to Alberta. Investment firms, banks, insurance companies, even the major oil companies, make it clear that oil, at least as a fuel, is a sunset industry. No doubt Jason Kenney knows it, too.

Let’s share this truth with all Albertans. They need it. According to public opinion research published by a group of scholars, Albertans are the Canadians least aware of the climate crisis. Only 42 percent think the earth is warming partly or mostly due to human activity compared with the national average of 60 percent. (And 60 percent is disappointing enough.)

OK, let’s get serious. 

I’m being tongue-in-cheek. Using the war room to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth beyond a reasonable doubt about oil isn’t about to happen. It would defeat the UCP’s purpose for setting the thing up in the first place—to act as a propaganda machine for the industry. 

But Albertans very much need to accept reality, and Kenney could do what Notley couldn’t—convince all these conservatives about the need to phase out oil as a fossil fuel. He can use his considerable influence to lead his constituents toward a greener future or he can continue to appeal to their fear and ignorance. Should he ever decide to do the former, the war room could be repurposed to serve that better cause. And then it would be worth $30-million a year.

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