On July 4, Jason Kenney announced a yearlong, $2.5 million inquiry into foreign interests opposed to the development of Alberta’s oil industry donating money to environmental groups in Canada.
Kenney promises that the inquiry will look into not just the contention that foreign entities such as the Rockefellers’ Fund and the Tides Foundation are funding environmental groups in Canada but also pursue the theory that Russia and OPEC see a decided advantage in keeping Alberta’s resources landlocked. All these lines of inquiry have been explored already, and yes, groups in the U.S. donate to environmental groups in Canada but all of that is public knowledge.
And if OPEC and Russia stand to benefit by Alberta’s resources remaining landlocked, it would hardly take a yearlong inquiry to figure that out.
Kenney is tilting at windmills, wasting time and money rather than pursuing tangible initiatives and offering viable solutions to the challenges Albertans face. Apart from the $2.5 million inquiry, Kenney is creating a $30 million “war room,” tasked with exposing, in Kenney’s words, “all the lies and the myths told about our energy industry.”
Of course, Kenney stated some inaccuracies about the Pembina Institute when announcing the $2.5 million inquiry, which seems like an ironic beginning to exposing lies and myths.
The Pembina Institute was established in Drayton Valley in 1985.
Following a 1981 sour gas accident in the Drayton Valley region that resulted in two fatalities and major pollution that lingered for weeks, a group of people from rural Alberta organized to lobby for tougher regulations of sour gas drilling and in 1985, the group became the Pembina Institute.
Today, the Pembina Institute has offices in Vancouver, Toronto, Ottawa, Edmonton, and its headquarters in Calgary.
Not only does this inquiry and war room nonsense have an unsettling authoritarian ring to it, but it is poor strategy also.
Environmental activists welcome having something to push back against, something newsworthy that keeps their mission front and centre and right now, these groups seem even cockier that Keeney, confident that the inquiry will yield no new revelations. Kenney promotes the concept that the oil and gas industry and the environment are mutually exclusive, an idea that is totally out of step with current popular thinking.
The “war room” encourages a facile scenario where people in Alberta are either on the side of the oil industry or with the environmentalists, when a substantial and growing number of Albertans want to see expansion projects but also want to ensure that the oil and gas industry does everything necessary to protect the environment.
Jason Kenney demonstrates a lack of foresight by alienating moderate voices who understand that oil will remain an essential commodity well into the future and that the oil industry creates jobs and prosperity, while at the same believing that the industry must ensure that there is minimum effect on the environment.
Those moderate voices can help get Alberta beyond the oil industry versus environmentalist impasse and create a more balanced and realistic approach to industry and environmental concerns.
It appears that Kenney is hopelessly trying to emulate the current wave of obnoxious, populist leaders, though Kenney lacks the charisma to pull that off. He is also not that popular. In the last election, the newly minted UCP party proved to be considerably more popular than its leader and it might be prudent for Kenney to keep that in mind.