Kenney: Energy ‘war room’ must tolerate risks, act quickly

The office aims to respond to critics of the oil and gas industry

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney attends a photo opportunity with Ontario Premier Doug Ford at the Ontario Legislature in Toronto on Friday, May 3, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young

Alberta’s premier says staff in the province’s so-called energy “war room” will be able to quickly take on industry foes without government bureaucracy holding them back.

The office — to be based in Calgary with a $30 million budget — is meant to take on critics of Alberta’s oil and gas industry in real time.

Kenney and Energy Minister Sonya Savage were meeting with industry players on Friday to get advice on how the war room should work.

He said he hopes to have it up and running by the end of the summer and that it will be staffed by government employees and potentially contractors.

Kenney shrugged off the notion that the operation will only serve to galvanize the environmental groups it’s meant to target, saying a defensive posture in the past hasn’t worked.

He said it will be tough to gauge the war room’s success, but one measure will be whether there is a shift in public opinion about Alberta’s energy industry.

Kenney said with the 24-hour news cycle being a thing of the past, the war room will have to shed some of the usual shackles of government communications.

Taking hours or even days to approve a message won’t cut it, he said.

“Government communications are by nature a little bureaucratic and tend to be a bit slow moving and risk averse,” he said.

“The energy war room will have a mandate to operate much more nimbly and much more quickly with a higher risk tolerance, quite frankly, than is normally the case for government communications.”

A war room leader has not been named yet.

Greenpeace Canada responded to Kenney’s remarks by noting that attacking environmental organizations that raise concerns about the oil industry ignores the reality of climate change.

“Jason Kenney can spend $30 million on political theatre to try to distract us from the deadly seriousness of climate scientists’ warnings, but that won’t keep wildfires, heat waves or floods from getting worse or stop the seas from rising,” Keith Stewart, senior energy strategist with Greenpeace Canada, said in a release.

“Shooting the messenger might make for great election campaign rhetoric, but ignoring inconvenient truths does nothing to prepare Alberta for the coming transition off of fossil fuels.”

On Friday, Kenney and Savage met with representatives of several industry and advocacy groups, including the Calgary Chamber of Commerce, Canada Action, The Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers and Energy Citizens.

Lauren Krugel, The Canadian Press

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