Lisa Johnson

September 27, 2021

-Calgary Herald


Alberta’s Canadian Energy Centre launched a $240,000 billboard campaign south of the border Monday to tout Canadian oil as “a better, closer, cleaner and friendlier option” for the United States than oil from countries like Russia and Saudi Arabia.

Known as the province’s energy “war room,” the Canadian Energy Centre was created as a private corporation out of a platform promise from the UCP government to tell positive stories about Alberta’s energy industry.

The latest campaign includes two billboards in Times Square for four weeks, and others for two weeks in high-traffic areas in New York and Washington D.C., including outside the Capital One Arena.

In a Monday news release, the centre said its campaign will also feature a “grassroots component” calling on Canadians and Americans to voice the benefits of Canadian energy to U.S. President Joe Biden and U.S. lawmakers.

CEO Tom Olsen said the centre wants to provide information to Americans about Canadian crude that U.S. refiners need and that will help keep gas prices down.

“We are speaking out for the many Canadians and Americans dismayed that the U.S. government asked OPEC+ countries for more oil to curb rising gas prices, rather than working with Canada,” he said in the release.

Shortly after COVID-19 restrictions began in March 2020, the province cut roughly 90 per cent of the agency’s $30-million annual budget. Paid advertising campaigns and work with contractors stopped. It has since seen its annual funding restored to around $12 million.

However, it has been a target for the Opposition NDP and critics after a series of blunders, beginning with its first logo, which appeared nearly identical to that of an American software company.

In March, when the war room launched a campaign against an animated children’s movie about Bigfoot, claiming it unfairly demonized the energy sector, NDP Opposition energy critic Kathleen Ganley called the centre’s efforts an embarrassment that would do little to attract international investors to Alberta’s energy sector. On Monday, Ganley said the billboards were “another waste of money” that included no plan to measure results.

The government has defended the work of the war room, saying it’s critical to the province’s economic recovery. Earlier this month, natural gas and electricity associate minister Dale Nally said at a trade show the government was standing up for the energy industry.

“I’m not apologizing for the war room because the war room is getting out the message and standing up for our No. 1 industry in this country,” he said.