The United Conservative Party Caucus is going to be busy now that Premier Jason Kenney has doubled down on the Alberta Energy War Room’s plan to review animated kids’ movies.
After all, the entertainment industry hasn’t done a positive take on the oil industry since the Beverly Hillbillies TV sitcom, which between 1962 and 1971 persuaded a generation of youngsters you could get rich by shooting at some food anywhere up from the ground might come a bubblin’ crude. (Oil, that is.)
That’s a heck of a lot of movies and TV shows to pan! On the bright side, getting ink for yelling at lame children’s movies is better than getting yelled at for your lousy policies and glacial COVID-19 vaccine rollout.
The makers of Netflix’s Bigfoot Family, the targets of Mr. Kenney’s ire, certainly won’t care. Being what the premier calls Hollywood types, even if they are from Belgium and France, they’ll understand Oscar Wilde spoke the truth when he famously observed that the only thing in life worse than being talked about is not being talked about.
Not that most members of the UCP Caucus are likely to know much about the greatest wit of the 19th Century – hint, he wasn’t the Oscar after whom the film-industry awards are named.
Anyway, presumably thanks to the international ruckus sparked by the War Room’s Wile E. Coyote inspired antics, Bigfoot Family, which had been languishing, has soared into Netflix’s Top Ten!
Canadian Energy Centre Ltd., as the War Room is officially known, launched its already notorious petition last week attacking the Netflix cartoon for being mean to fossil fuel companies. This generated international chuckles and eyerolls at the expense of Alberta’s government, which now seems provincial in every sense of the word.
Asked a question about it yesterday at a news conference with Justice Minister Kaycee Madu on the UCP’s new “citizen initiative” bill, Mr. Kenney, true to form, went all in.
He accused the makers of the animated feature of having “developed content designed to defame in the most vicious way possible, in the impressionable minds of kids, the largest industry in the province.”
“We can just pretend that’s not a reality, just ignore it, just say that Big Hollywood operations should be able to depict the oil and gas as, in the words of Netflix … evil, that oil and gas companies plot to murder people, and are organized purposefully to destroy the environment,” Mr. Kenney huffed. “Albertans and people who defend our oil and gas workers, have every right to set the record straight, to put a spotlight on that, on those kinds of outrageous lies, and that kind of defamation.”
If they’re “accusing oil companies of basically being the Mafia, of, of, of, of conspiring to murder people, including kids,” he exclaimed, “I think that’s pretty darned serious!”
For a man who so often favourably contrasts Alberta’s “ethical” oil with the tyrannical dictator variety he says is found in most other places, Mafia-like behaviour by some oil companies and their enablers in foreign governments seems like an odd thing for Mr. Kenney to get exercised about.
But listen for yourselves. The clip starts at about the 26th minute of the news conference.
At times, Mr. Kenney looks and sounds like a man whose grip on reality is slipping. That said, there’s no reason to think that means he won’t continue to be successful. Willian Lyon Mackenzie King had a tenuous grip on reality too – he not only talked to his dog, he talked to it after the dog was dead – and he was nevertheless the longest serving prime minister in Canadian history.
But we’re not here to talk about Willy King, notwithstanding his passing resemblance to Alberta’s premier.
Energy Minister Sonya Savage also savaged the Netflix movie yesterday, although with considerably less enthusiasm than her boss. “Not everybody is going to agree with every single tactic of the Canadian Energy Centre. I don’t either,” she told the Standing Committee on Resources Stewardship. “We have to find a way to counter … the significant misinformation that is targeted at our energy sector, and discredits the hard working men and women of Alberta who work in it.”
For his part, Mr. Kenney proceeded to read from the pages of The Sun, Rupert Murdoch’s notorious British tabloid, which included a pedestrian story on the Alberta brouhaha seemingly for the opportunity to repeat Bigfoot puns.
Thanks to The Sun, the premier rambled on, the story is “is in front of millions of readers in Europe right now, and it has flagged for them this effort to mislead kids and accuse the oil industry of being a bunch of murderers.”
Anyone who has picked up a copy of The Sun will understand that it is a journal you don’t necessarily want on your side if you wish to persuade respectable people of the merits of your argument. On the other hand, sometimes all one can ask for is any old port in a storm.
As for Bill 51, the Citizen Initiative Act, the supposed “on-ramp to the legislative process” would require promoters of petitions to add or amend a law to gather signatures from about 280,000 people in two thirds of all electoral districts within 90 days. A constitutional referendum would require about 560,000 signatures in the same time frame.
This sounds like grandstanding unlikely to result in any meaningful change not desired by the government of the day, which has the tools in the bill to checkmate any proposal it doesn’t want enacted. Expect it to be used only by right-wing lobby groups working hand-in-glove with the government.
NOTE: This post has been edited to add Jim Storrie’s inspired reference to Wile E. Coyote, while I read on the Progress Report this morning.