Alberta Politics
The War Room from Dr. Strangelove — actual Alberta war rooms may not appear exactly as illustrated (Photo: Wikipedia).

Running a War Room in the age of coronavirus: Nothing much happening right now

Posted on March 23, 2020, 9:44 pm
5 mins

For those of you worried about the prolonged silence from Alberta’s Energy War Room, it turns out the nine-member staff of Canadian Energy Centre Ltd. are just taking a little breather while they figure out what to do next.

Back when Jason Kenney was running for his present job as premier of Alberta, he promised to create “a fully-staffed, rapid-response war room in government” and vowed it would “issue swift responses to misinformation about Canadian energy.”

Canadian Energy Centre spokesperson Grady Semmens (Photo: Canadian Energy Centre Ltd.).

The not insignificant sum of $30 million a year was committed this purpose, and environmentalists and other opponents of the United Conservative Party’s energy policies braced themselves for aggressive push back from feisty government energy warriors.

Their fears were overblown. First, CECL turn out to be a “private company,” apparently created with public funds to keep snoopy reporters from filing Freedom of Information requests about how the $30 million was being used. After a few weeks of embarrassing blunders by the CEC’s minuscule staff, about all we’ve seen have been puffy features about how the prospects for Alberta’s fossil fuel industry are great and the neat things you can make out of refined bitumen. Medical instruments! Who knew?

Lately, though, we haven’t seen even that.

Canadian Energy Centre researcher Lennie Kaplan (Photo: Canadian Energy Centre Ltd.).

The last time anything was heard from the War Room was on March 11, when it published a story about the former Algoma Steel Inc. pipe mill in Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., now operated by Luxembourg-based multinational steel maker Tenaris SA.

Other than that, there’s been naught but radio silence.

Canadian Energy Centre Research Director Mark Milke (Photo: Canadian Energy Centre Ltd.).

Accordingly, I asked Grady Semmens what has become of the War Room’s efforts on behalf of Alberta’s struggling fossil fuel industry. For readers who speculated Mr. Kenney might have used the genuine crisis facing the world to quietly put the Canadian Energy Centre out of its misery, no soap.

Like all organizations, we have adjusted our work practices to limit the spread of COVID-19,” Mr. Semmens told me today. “We have temporarily halted most of our advertising and avoided publishing new material while Canadians focus on dealing with the public health emergency.”

Well, you can hardly blame foreign-funded environmentalists and urban European greens for the coronavirus, or for that matter for the Saudis and the Russians deciding to duke it out by increasing the supply of oil flowing to world markets that have all but shut down as a result of the global pandemic.

Former PC finance minister Lyle Oberg, back in the day (Photo: Condor Consulting).

“In the meantime, we are working on a number of initiatives to support the energy industry and the significant economic recovery that lies ahead for our country, which will roll out at the appropriate time,” Mr. Semmens said in an email.

“Throughout February and early March,” he said, “we launched a national marketing campaign related to the benefits and Indigenous support for emerging LNG export industry, and we released a research brief on Indigenous employment and opportunities in the oil sands. Our communications and research teams continue to develop new plans and materials along similar lines.”

One of the advertisements from the spring marketing campaign says that “the world needs more Canadian energy,” although it probably doesn’t need it just now.

The research brief was drafted by former Fraser Institute apparatchik Mark Milke and War Room staffer Lennie Kaplan, an aide Lyle Oberg back when the often-prickly Brooks physician was minister of finance in Ed Stelmach’s cabinet.

Dr. Oberg was recently recycled by the Kenney Government as well, appearing as a member of the government’s bargaining team in 11th hour negotiations with the Alberta Medical Association.

5 Comments to: Running a War Room in the age of coronavirus: Nothing much happening right now

  1. Alex Polkovsky

    March 24th, 2020

    Just leaving a shout out to the Alberta Liabilities Disclosure Project (ALDP) for their work to bring attention to Alberta’s (brace yourselves) 450,000 abandoned oil and gas wells, 400,000 kilometers of pipelines, and a whopping $260 billion liability.

    But that’s just the glass half empty version of the facts. The better vision would be one where out of work O&G industry workers are employed by the thousands, using their existing skills to clean up the industry’s mess.

    Find out more at https://www.aldpcoalition.com/ or take a listen to this recent interview https://www.theprogressreport.ca/aimco_unfunded_orphan_well_crisis .

    Reply
  2. Bill Malcolm

    March 24th, 2020

    I was under the obviously mistaken assumption that the War Room was a bunker. There, these logic-deprived folk sucking off the public teat could self-isolate and order in takeout pizza for sustenance from the petty cash debit card. Apparently not.

    Saudi Arabia and Vlad have squared off to give us cheap oil just when nobody needs it, at least judging by the lack of traffic round these parts. It’s like selling cabbage for a nickel a kilo — you’re still not going to move a whole lot unless you’re running the Coleslaw Factory which offers free delivery to aficionados.

    Alberta is sitting on a mountain of “energy” and heavy metals which is worth less than diddly squat. A Big Mac Meal with Xtra fries and Apple Pie (cough) costs more than a barrel of sweet-smelling ethically-produced dilbit, so it’s hard to keep things in proportion. This quandary seems to have sunk into the minds of the War Room staffers, if not to the supremo and genius who leads the Parochial Kingdom of Alberta, where down is up and a one-industry domination of the economy is perceived as the way to go. I see harper is re-appearing, so provincial scrip redeemable only at the company store will soon be all the rage.

    Going beyond my snark, one wonders if anyone with a brain has considered that the completion of the TMX is not a financially sound idea at the present time – nor very amenable to social distancing in its construction. Horgan in BC still has delusions that his LNG at almost three times the current unit price is logical – I regard him as a dope of the first magnitude. If these pols had dynamite for brains, they wouldn’t be able to muster a sneeze a coronavirus spotter would take note of.

    Risk for reward was supposed to be the basis of industrial capitalism, but that was subverted from the start by monopolistic tendencies. Now these international trade deals and general outlook of the fat cats is that if they make a mistake in assessing risk, generally on purpose it seems, the public gets to bail them out. Kenney loves this idea by pre-priming projects with public pension funds, and screw the populace at large, while Horgan is just an affable dunce, and the schMoe that runs Saskatchewan is bereft of any commonsense whatsoever. I’d never have believed it, but Doug Fraud seems to have come to his senses to some degree, but three times the population with a much wider range of views than exists in Alberta may have concentrated his mind. May, I said.

    Keep safe.

    Reply
  3. Just Me

    March 24th, 2020

    I supposed like many manufacturers in Canada, repurposing their operations to produce medical respirators and other necessities in this time of pandemic crisis, the War Room can be retooled as well.

    There’s a still CPC leadership race that still on. Kenney’s endorsement and favourite horse, Erin O’Toole, surely needs lots and lots of promotion…and funding. That $30M still isn’t going to spend itself.

    And there’s the ever-expanding COVID-19 pandemic threat that’s continuing its march across the planet. Surely the talented bunch at the War Room can apply their many trades to the this fight. Propaganda never stopped a virus before; but this time, you never know? A few articles about the “Chinese Virus” could put the War Room in the good books again.

    Reply
  4. Lars

    March 24th, 2020

    Lyle Oberg? Might have known he’d surface in Jason’s World, with its toxic atmosphere.
    I remember our Dean of Nursing (a very professional and proper woman) describing a meeting between her and others in the nurses’ union and Dr. Oberg, back when he was in a position to do serious damage. I’ve honestly never heard a nurse, let alone a senior RN, use language like that.

    Reply

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