Effective or not? NDP question the value provided by Alberta's energy war room
EDMONTON -- Alberta's United Conservative government is again defending setting the sights of its so-called energy war room on an animated Netflix film it says spreads misinformation about the oil and gas sector.
During a standing committee on resource stewardship meeting on Tuesday, the NDP MLA for Calgary-Mountain View questioned the province's energy minister about a petition titled "Tell the truth Netflix," which was launched by the Canadian Energy Centre (CEC) in response to the streaming platform's cartoon Bigfoot Family.
Energy critic Kathleen Ganley said the film was relatively obscure and “got very little notice” until the petition was launched, and then became one of the top-10 streamed films in Canada over the weekend.
Ganley argued the CEC brought more viewers to watch the film – an effect that is opposite of what should have been intended.
Energy Minister Sonya Savage disagreed, saying countering “false narratives” and “misinformation” about the energy sector is necessary.
“The one thing for sure that I know is that when you don’t stand up for the energy sector you signal that it doesn’t matter,” Savage said.
“Not everybody is going to agree with every single tactic of the Canadian Energy Centre, I don’t either. But I did find that the comments I have heard in that cartoon were quite offensive and they’re comments that have to be countered somewhere.”
Savage added there is an economic cost to leaving damaging narratives about Alberta oil -- as she says Bigfoot Family is -- are left unchecked, like pipelines being vetoed or cancelled.
OIL AND GAS MISINFORMATION HAS CIRCULATED FOR TOO LONG: UCP
In Savage’s view, misinformation about the oil and gas sector in Alberta has been perpetuated too long.
“There is no question whatsoever that we have to find a way to counter the kinds of campaigns and the kind of narrative and the significant misinformation that is targeted at our energy sector.”
Savage said industry tried to fight this “misinformation” but needed government’s “backing.”
UCP MLA for Airdrie-Cochrane Peter Guthrie agreed with Savage, noting the CEC reaches 1.5 million people per month on Facebook alone.
According to Guthrie, the fact that the provincial corporation -- created in 2019 -- was able to take a film that was “obscure” and “boost” it to the top of the charts is a significant achievement.
“That’s pretty awesome if they have that kind of ability.
“The NDP’s opposition, to the CEC, as well as media and activists tells me it’s working, and working pretty well.”
PREMIER SAYS MOVIES LIKE BIGFOOT FAMILY 'NEED'TO BE RESPONDED TO
At a press conference about Bill 51, Premier Jason Kenney was asked whether he thought the war room should be fighting about a children’s film.
He said the war room was designed to respond to “misinformation” about oil and gas sector activities in “real-time.”
According to Kenney, there is a need to respond to movies like Bigfoot Family.
“You can dismiss this as merely a kid’s show, but it’s clear that they developed content designed to defame – in the most vicious way possible – in the impressionable minds of kids the largest industry in the province.
Whether it is entertainment for children or a show for adults, Kenney said it is serious to ensure the record is set straight.
“I think… Albertans and people who defend our oil and gas workers have every right to set the record straight to put a spotlight on those kinds of outrageous lies and that kind of defamation.”
PERFORMANCE METRICS FOR WAR ROOM MUST BE DEVELOPED: NDP
Ganley further questioned Savage about the war room and its lack of performance measures or metrics to help illustrate what the overall impact it has.
“The public deserves to see metrics in terms of what that impact is,” Ganley said. “We’re not measuring the positive impact [of the war room]. We are also not measuring the negative impact.”
Ganley pointed out that during 2015-19, while the NDP was leading the provincial government, it provided public opinion survey data to showcase changes in effectiveness of advertising. She said the survey found 40 per cent of Canadians in favour of Alberta’s oil sector improved to almost 70 per cent after some of the NDP government’s public awareness campaigns.
“Given that we know that these metrics are available and governments have done them in the past, why are there no metrics to determine what the impact the war room is having on public opinion?”Ganley asked.
Savage responded the only metric Albertans need is construction progress on Trans Mountain, Enbridge, and other pipeline optimization projects: “We actually have pipelines being built now.”
Additionally, Savage said the UCP government’s more “assertive approach” against false narratives will make advocating for new pipeline projects and emerging sectors like geothermal and hydrogen energy easier in the future.
Ganley countered by saying that the Trans Mountain Pipeline expansion project and Enbridge Line 3 were both approved during the NDP’s tenure.