A scene from Bigfoot Family (Image: Found on the Internet without attribution, nWave Pictures, presumably).

History repeats itself, Karl Marx famously observed, first as tragedy, second as farce. 

Well, not always. Alberta’s notorious Energy War Room, fortunately, seems to have skipped the tragedy phase and moved directly to farce.

A screengrab of the Alberta Energy War Room’s Netflix attack site (Image: Canadian Energy Centre Ltd.).

With the War Room staff’s unintentionally hilarious decision last week to launch a petition attacking a Netflix cartoon movie called Bigfoot Family on the grounds it “peddles lies about the energy sector,” we can safely assume the farce is about to go global. 

It’s fun but not very difficult to imagine what the international media will make of the War Room’s screechy website headline about the cartoon: “TELL THE TRUTH NETFLIX!” 

The War Room huffs on its petition form that the popular kids’ movie “even shows oil being extracted by blowing up a valley using glowing red bombs that look like something out of an action movie.” (Never mind that once upon a time there was an actual plan to use 100 nuclear bombs to extract oil from bitumen in, of all places … Alberta!)

As of last night, only about 2,000 folks with time on their hands and nothing better to read had signed the War Room’s petition, not a good result for an outfit that has a budget of almost $30 million a year. Hopefully, none of their personal information will end up in the hands of UCP fund-raisers.  

We already know the War Room’s efforts have passed the Beaverton Test on the northern side of the world’s longest semi-closed border. “Alberta’s war room counters ‘Bigfoot Family’ with $50 million production of ‘Peter the Pipeline,’” the Canadian news satire site joked. 

“With a little help from Larry the Lobbyist and Oily McGrath, a woodland duck covered in tar, Peter the Pipeline sets out on an adventure of a lifetime full of helping strangers liberate themselves from environmental regulations and opposing carbon taxes,” the Beaverton quipped on.

If you count the efforts of the almost totally secret “Public Inquiry into Anti-Alberta Energy Campaigns,” Alberta’s War Room efforts have already gone international.

Jason Kenney in 2017, before his ascent to the Premier’s Office (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

Inquiry Commissioner Steve Allan’s bizarre decision last year to pay a PhD historian employed in the United Kingdom as a home-school teacher $27,847 to write a 133-page screed claiming there’s a conspiracy by a “transnational progressive movement” including environmental journalists to overthrow modern western industrial capitalism has already attracted critical news coverage abroad.

“The party controlling Alberta’s provincial government in Canada paid thousands of dollars to slander environment journalists as part of a multi-million dollar investigation going after environmentalists,” New York-based Vice Magazine reported. 

That in turn was picked up by the highly respectable USA Today newspaper, which headlined its piece, *“Biden takes aim at fossil fuels, while Alberta, Canada, takes aim at journalists.” 

This wasn’t what we expected when Jason Kenney vowed at the founding convention of the United Conservative Party in 2018 that he would establish a “fully staffed rapid response war room in government to quickly and effectively rebut every lie told by the green left about our world-class energy industry.” 

Indeed, there was a certain amount of hand-wringing once Mr. Kenney was elected and had set up the multi-million-dollar operation, officially christening it Canadian Energy Centre Ltd. There was a not-unreasonable assumption the outfit would soon be bigfooting around the province bullying the government’s enemies. 

Instead it has turned out to be an unrelenting gong show. 

War Room Director Tom Olsen (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

Tom Olsen, Progressive Conservative premier Ed Stelmach’s former communications guy and an unsuccessful UCP candidate in 2019, was put in charge.

Up to then, the former Calgary Herald journalist was best known for his defence in 2009 of the use of a photo of an English beach in a Government of Alberta advertising campaign branding the province as a great place to visit and do business. 

“There’s no attempt to make people think that this is Alberta,” Mr. Olsen insisted. “That picture just fit the mood and tone of what we were trying to do.” Former NDP leader Brian Mason called this the “most lame spin ever.” The photo was later quietly removed. 

Since the beginning, the story of the War Room has been a series of pratfalls, including a logo that turned out to be another company’s trademarked symbol, replaced by a new logo that was also someone else’s intellectual property, plus an effort to smear the New York Times for a story about how financial institutions were discouraging investment in Alberta’s oilsands by accusing the newspaper of anti-Semitism. 

One wonders what the War Room will do when it learns about Tin Star, the British TV crime series about a London cop transplanted to the Canadian Rockies who ends up doing battle with an evil oil company that dominates the company town where he’s chief of police?

Brace yourself, Acorn TV, for cranky emails from a small number of riled up Albertans who have never seen the show about your portrayal of our fossil fuel industry. 

Please don’t be mean and remind them that the series was filmed in Alberta with the encouragement of the local government. It’s all about lives and livelihoods, ya know. 

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  1. No wonder so many in the rest of Canada want this outfit to be renamed the “Alberta Energy Centre” so that they won’t have to be associated with it. However, this Centre of Enterprise would then have a problem of coming up with a new logo …

  2. Maybe we should bring Bigfoot up here, give him an RV and let him stomp around Alberta on a tour of our provincial parks. That might change his perspective. What? No reservation? Maybe he can get in on the resale market. No luck? How about a stay in a suite at the Banff Springs Hotel? Breakfast is included, and keep the white slippers, please. It’s a good thing Jason Kenney did a test run.

    P.S. My secret source said that not only does the premier have access to Mr. Dressup’s Tickle Trunk, he knows the Friendly Giant, too. Isn’t that crazy?

  3. P.P.S. I thought about filling in some of those Netflix complaints, and signing them with the name of a fictional cartoon character (“Jason Kenney”), but then I realized 1999 of them were probably already signed that way, and one is probably signed, “Tom, of Tom and Jerry”.

  4. What’s the fuss? This is what these nutjobs do.

    While the rest of the world grapples with real issues like anthropogenic global warming, like the rise of authoritarian populism, like the increase in criminal and opaque financialization at every level, these conservative goofballs have been whining and whinging about their own personal historic prerogatives. Small-minded, slow-witted navel-gazers – every one of them.

  5. In a year of pandemic, what government would be crazy enough to attack everyone’s go-to tv tranquilizer, Netflix? Maybe the same government that attacks doctors, nurses, teachers, professors . . . .

    1. You mean like,”Coal development on the Eastern Slopes can be done responsibly with no deleterious effects on pristine mountain valleys.” That be “kiddie level” propaganda that somehow flies with you.

      1. Who killed Roger Rabbit isnt pointed at kids.

        As to your bais towards warm happy thoughts towards the word progressive and disdain for the word conservative. I think thats a problem that your psychiatrist will have to help you out with.

    2. thinken progressives perhaps have sense more developed sense of humor than your bog standard AB conservative

      to blatantly plagiarize adapt one of my favourite John Stuart Mill quotes

      “Although it is not true that all conservatives lack a sense of humour,
      it is true that most humourless people are conservative.”

  6. “Tell the truth.” they say.

    This has to be the most epic gaslighting I have ever witnessed in Alberta. My answer: “You first.”

    The day Kenney tells the truth, I’ll gladly cancel my Netflix. Two more years of this – sheesh!

  7. I really wish we had some kind of late night TV talk show in Canada. It would be so much fun to hear someone like David Letterman’s take on our government picking a fight with a cartoon.

  8. Yes, the farce here is obvious. The tragedy is the UCP is wasting public money on this ineffectual and counter productive venture. Perhaps putting a failed UCP candidate in charge of this endeavor was not such a good idea after all.

    I suppose, if it is any consolation, at least the UCP did not lose $1.5 billion on this, like it did on the Keystone XL pipeline.

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