CALGARY—Albertas United Conservative government has opened its war room to take on critics it says spread misinformation about the oil and gas industry.
Premier Jason Kenney insists the $30-million Canadian Energy Centre is not a propaganda arm of the government and wont trample on anyones right to free speech.
“This is designed to respond with facts to a campaign of misleading and dishonest propaganda that has come in large part from a highly co-ordinated campaign of foreign-funded special interests,” Kenney said Wednesday.
The war room is part of a multi-pronged approach that also includes a $2.5-million public inquiry into foreign funding of anti-oil advocacy groups.
The Muttart Foundation, an Edmonton charity, disputes the notion that opposition to Albertas oil and gas industry is bankrolled by foreign money. Using Canada Revenue Agency data, it found Alberta charities received less than three percent of their revenues from foreign sources.
Human rights group Amnesty International Canada has warned that the war room and public inquiry threaten freedom of expression and association. Legal advocacy group Ecojustice has filed a court challenge citing similar concerns.
“If there are organizations that use their free speech to put misinformation into the public square, we will respond,” Kenney said.
“Thats not attacking freedom of speech. Its responding to the content of the speech. Thats called public discourse.”
He said the centre will react with “respect, civility and professionalism.”
The centre is to have a research unit, an energy literacy unit, and a rapid response team to challenge misinformation. Its website lists eight staff members, half of whom used to work in the media.
CEO Tom Olsen, a one-time journalist and former premier Ed Stelmachs spokesman, ran unsuccessfully as a United Conservative Party candidate in the April provincial election.
He said he anticipates adding staff as the centre ramps up. “We will be effective and mindful of the money that we spend, which is taxpayers money,” he said.
One-third of the budget comes from existing provincial advertising money, and the rest from a levy on major industrial emitters.
The centre aims to get its message out through advertising, publicity and social media. Olsen described it as “part new media organization, part think tank, research hub.”
He said hes not sure whether the war room will reach out to people or organizations privately to request corrections.
Its website, which went up Tuesday, has several articles by centre staff. Theres one about an Indigenous businessman proposing to build a pipeline, another about how Canadian natural gas can help lower global greenhouse gas emiRead More – Source