Alberta Premier creates an energy ‘war room’

Alberta’s Premier Jason Kenney has announced the creation of an energy ‘war room’ intended to quickly take on industry opponents and paid activists without government bureaucracy holding them back. During the provincial election campaign, Premier Kenney pledged to combat misinformation in the media about the energy sector and fight back against what he said are foreign-funded interests attacking the industry.

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

The office will be based in Calgary, the province’s energy headquarters, with a CAD $30 million budget funded by the United Conservatives’ large emitters levy and overseen by Energy Minister Sonya Savage. Premier Kenney said he would announce who will be leading the initiative “in the near future.”

Premier Kenney 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. The war room’s attention will extend all over the world and the Premier said if the government sees misinformation being spread in “paid, earned and social media” the war room would respond on the information battlefield “in real time.

On Friday, Premier Kenney and Energy Minister Sonya Savage held a round table with several industry leaders and advocacy groups, including the Calgary Chamber of Commerce, Canada Action, The Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers and Energy Citizens for advice on how the war room should work.

The Premier said the creation of the energy war room is necessary since the 24-hour news cycle is a thing of the past and the initiative will be able to work freely beyond government communication limitations, where he says taking hours or days to approve a message won’t cut it. “The news cycle is now basically instantaneous with social media,” he said.

Premier Kenney disagreed that the initiative will only serve to galvanize the environmental groups that it’s meant to target, saying a defensive posture in the past hasn’t worked. He says 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.