Alberta Politics
Alberta Energy Minister Sonya Savage (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

Plus ça change, plus c’est la meme chose? Former Postmedia journalist hired by Kenney Government to ‘reset the record’

Posted on August 02, 2019, 12:48 am
4 mins

Energy Minister Sonya Savage announced last night, in the words of her news release, that “award-winning oil and gas journalist Claudia Cattaneo has joined the fight against the lies and myths being spread about Alberta’s energy industry.”

Ms. Cattaneo, who retired last year as Postmedia’s Western Canada business columnist, complained in her retirement swan song that “reporters have become collateral damage in the conflict between the two camps. Their reputations are constantly under attack and dismissed as ‘oil shills’ on social media by activists who’d rather see fair industry coverage suppressed.”

Former energy journalist Claudia Cattaneo (Photo: Economic Club of Canada).

That may reflect her experience, although I doubt it’s the general perception among journalists who cover the industry.

A quick scan of headlines on Ms. Cattaneo’s stories from 2015, 2016 and 2017 suggests a writer not unsympathetic to prevailing attitudes in the fossil fuel industry. Here are a few:

  • “Jason Kenney promises to restore Alberta as top energy investment destination” (This while the NDP was still in the middle of its mandate)
  • “Anti-oil activists step up opposition as Trudeau honeymoon ends”
  • “TransCanada CEO says climate change action not working to stem pipeline opponents”
  • “Notley’s lawsuit to stop power companies from leaving contracts could be a ‘Monty Python script’”
  • “How the West was done: ‘We are getting a glimpse of an oil-free future and its not pretty’”
  • “‘We keep beating our oil industry with a stick and nobody wants to say enough is enough’”

In other words, perhaps, plus ça change, plus c’est la meme chose.

Energy journalist Markham Hislop (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

“Ms. Cattaneo has been contracted to develop a strategic plan that will lay the foundation for restoring Alberta’s reputation in the fight for our oil and gas sector,” Ms. Savage said in her news release. “The strategic plan will be completed and presented to government early this fall.”

Ms. Cattaneo will have her work cut out for her if energy journalist Markham Hislop got it right in his report yesterday that the open letter from oil sands CEOs explicitly acknowledging the reality of global climate change published in newspaper advertisements across the country “exposes the political fault lines in the Calgary-based oil and gas sector.”

“The CEOs are now aggressively selling their decarbonizing strategy in a bid for greater public support, a strategy the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers and the Jason Kenney government have rejected,” Mr. Hislop wrote.

“The open letter is a tacit admission by the oil sands sector, which produces 80 per cent of Alberta’s crude oil, that it has lost confidence in (CAPP CEO Tim) McMillan and CAPP,” he wrote. “The letter is also a sign that the CEOs will not be cowed by Kenney, who has said publicly many times that he is not happy with their support for Rachel Notley’s Climate Leadership Plan and their pursuit of ‘social license’ for pipeline projects.”

When Ms. Savage said “the lies end now,” was she referring to what the CEOs of the oilsands giants have to say? Or just those pesky foreign-funded environmentalists?

If Mr. Hislop got it right, this can’t help Ms. Savage and Ms. Cattenao in their quest to “reset the record.”

4 Comments to: Plus ça change, plus c’est la meme chose? Former Postmedia journalist hired by Kenney Government to ‘reset the record’

  1. Political Ranger

    August 2nd, 2019

    O, what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive! Walter Scott

  2. Jerrymacgp

    August 2nd, 2019

    We have all seen, and lamented, how deeply polarized politics in the United States have become in recent years, a phenomenon that long predates the election of Donald Trump as President but of which that election was probably the most alarming symptom. In that country, the fault lines are about race, ethnicity, religion, human rights, equality, and similar social issues, often lumped together into the term “culture wars”.

    Here in Canada, while we also have similar fault lines, they are far less sharply drawn and less likely to determine how the majority of people tend to vote. While there are thin threads of social conservatism and fears of “the other” woven into the fabric of Canadian society, by and large these threads are not dominant in that fabric: for most Canadians, “live and let live” is the predominant attitude towards these matters. Hence the general acceptance of women’s right to choose, marriage equality, and so on. (Here, I admit I’m overgeneralizing, and I am also choosing to neglect, for the moment, such outliers as the Quebec secularism law).

    But, make no mistake, there is a policy area in which Canadian politics has become deeply polarized, and that is energy and the environment. On the one side, we have those advocating for continued unbridled development of fossil fuel resources, who assail any discussion about pricing carbon emissions as an assault on people’s livelihoods. On the other, we have the environmental climate-change absolutists, who see every oil & gas sector job as another nail in the coffin of the Earth’s ecology.

    Stuck in the middle is the Government of Canada, which has brought in a federal backstop carbon tax applicable only in those provinces that have not priced carbon emissions themselves, bringing down the wrath of the Oil Gods on their heads; and, which also bought out Kinder Morgan’s interest in the Trans-Mountain pipeline and its proposed expansion line, after ongoing court delays gave the company cold feet, bringing down the wrath of the Green Gods on their heads. If the Liberals hadn’t bought out K-M, they would have been viciously attacked by conservative politicians and the right-wing punditocracy for torpedoing Alberta’s economy. But they did buy it, and so they’ve also been viciously attached by Jagmeet Singh and the NDP, by Elizabeth May and the Green Party, and by the NDP-Green minority government of B.C. In fact, even though they did buy it, they have still been viciously attacked by conservatives, because it became necessary to do so—even though that situation arose due to the confluence of a Federal Court decision and the risk intolerance of an American pipeline company, factors beyond the control of any democratic government.

    What we are no longer seeing, is any semblance of a middle ground. If you support employment in the fossil fuel industry, you are condemning our children and grandchildren to a grim future in a rapidly warming world; if you support a transition away from fossil fuels, you are condemning Albertan and other Western Canadian families to living in poverty and are attacking Alberta itself. Lost is the idea of trying to do both.

    • Farmer Brian

      August 2nd, 2019

      Jerry, I certainly agree. The current political climate has certainly created a situation where compromise seems impossible. While there is no doubt that my outlook on most topics clash with most of David’s readership, I would certainly like to see practical solutions found somewhere in middle. Enjoy your day.

  3. David

    August 3rd, 2019

    My comment is simply that as much as oil has been the story in Alberta for most of the last 70 years Alberta needs to have a plan B so that if and when the oil industry is phased out for whatever reasons Alberta won’t become a third rate province like it was us to the mid 1940s.

    Climate change may cause a drought in the prairies that will make the 1930s seem like a paradise. In short no province and indeed no country (Canada) should continue to be only a resource extraction economy. We can’t continue to be hewers of wood and drawers of water and have a sound economic foundation. As much as the US wants us to continue in that role our governments and industry leaders need to break free and create a new form of economy. Whoa that won’t be so easy since most of our businesses are foreign owned at present.

    But we gotta be trying.


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