The publicly funded entity created by the Alberta UCP government to wage an information war with critics of the province’s oil and gas sector has launched a high-profile “awareness campaign”, hoping to convince Americans that their country should import more Canadian oil.
“This includes informing Americans that the United States can choose where it imports oil from and that Canada is a better, closer, cleaner, and friendlier option compared to countries like Russia and Saudi Arabia,” the Canadian Energy Center , which many Albertans refer to as the province’s energy war room, it said in a post on its website Monday. “The United States uses approximately nine million barrels of oil per day more than is produced in the country.”
READ MORE: Alberta Prime Minister Opens War Room to Promote ‘Truth’ About Energy Industry
The CEC said its “Cleaner, Closer, Committed to Net Zero” campaign features billboards in New York City and Washington.
The campaign will see two digital billboards for four weeks in Times Square, a static digital billboard at Astor on New York’s Grand Central Parkway for two weeks, and three moving billboards outside of Capital One Arena in Washington for two weeks.
“The roughly $ 240,000 initiative is a reminder to Americans that their friends and allies in Canada have solutions for cleaner energy and lower gasoline prices, and the key to a strong post-pandemic economic recovery.”
READ MORE: Alberta’s Energy ‘War Room’ Plans New Broad Ad Campaign to Change Perceptions of Oil and Gas
Minister of Energy Sonya Savage tweeted that she was pleased to hear about the billboard campaign and that she also believes it will “remind Americans that their friends and allies in Canada have the solution for cleaner energy and lower gas prices.”
The CEC said its new campaign will also “have a grassroots component urging Canadians and Americans to respectfully advocate to the president and US lawmakers on the benefits of Canadian energy.”
The campaign website asks visitors to enter their name and email address to be included in a “pledge” to “support closer and cleaner Canadian oil.”
Since the inception of the CEC, Alberta’s oil sector has experienced a number of setbacks, including the revocation of permits for the Keystone XL pipeline by US President Joe Biden, which has essentially killed the project.
READ MORE: Alberta Energy Minister Defends ‘War Room’ Petition Against Children’s Film ‘Bigfoot Family’
Opposition energy critic Kathleen Ganley issued a press release Monday afternoon saying she believes the billboards are a waste of money, “particularly without a plan to measure the results.”
Global News reached out to Savage’s press secretary to see how her office plans to measure the success of the campaign. While no response was received, Global News received an email from CEC Executive Director Tom Olsen on the matter, stating that the minister’s office sent him the request for comment.
“This is the first phase of a campaign that will be in various markets for several months,” he said.
“During that time, there will be a series of performance indicators that we track to allow us to understand the penetration of these types of campaigns. They include microsite visits and overall impressions, media stories gained throughout our entire campaign, and promotional letters that are sent out.
“The bottom line is that we are speaking for the many Canadians and Americans dismayed that the US government has asked OPEC + countries for more oil to curb rising gas prices, rather than working with Canada.
“Americans should know that canceling Keystone XL and restricting the safe, responsible and increasingly less energy-intensive Canadian crude needed by US refineries will continue to have a direct impact on rising prices at the pump.”
The CEC has made headlines in the last two years for its criticism of The New York Times and for scolding the makers of a Bigfoot children’s movie for what he called an anti-oil message.
In his press release, Ganley questioned the CEC’s ability to help Alberta’s energy sector.
“Since its inception, the UCP war room has been plagued with controversy, secrecy and incompetence,” he said. “It has failed to deliver results for Albertans or our energy sector, and this latest ad campaign is more of the same.
“The war room did absolutely nothing to help secure a single pipeline. It’s a big part of the UCP’s failed strategy that failed to get Keystone XL to cross the line, costing Albertans at least $ 1.3 billion. “
Ganley suggested that he believes the ad campaigns will not have much of an impact on people opposed to oil and gas development and said the provincial government should take more action to address climate change.
During the NDP’s time as the Alberta government, at least $ 23 million was spent on the Keep Canada Working campaign, an advertising initiative aimed at convincing Canadians that the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project was one that needed to be completed. .
READ MORE: ‘This is BC vs. Canada ‘: Alberta has spent $ 23 million on the Keep Canada Working campaign
When asked how the NDP’s Keep Canada Working campaign was different from the last CEC campaign, Ganley provided Global News with a statement saying that his party’s campaign was “fully transparent with measurable results for Albertans. “.
READ MORE: As Trans Mountain’s decision looms, poll suggests majority of British Columbia still supports pipeline
“Polls showed that we shifted support for the Trans Mountain pipeline from four in 10 Canadians to seven in 10,” his statement reads in part.
“Our campaign was also combined with real action on climate change, as well as diplomacy and negotiations that ultimately got the construction of Trans Mountain underway.
“The war room has already been reprimanded by the auditor general for delivering unwarranted single source contracts and is currently under investigation by the privacy commissioner for possible mishandling of personal information.”
READ MORE: Alberta Auditor Points to $ 1.6 Billion in Government Accounting Errors, Oversight Issues
Lori Williams, associate professor of policy studies at Calgary’s Mount Royal University, noted that such ad campaigns can be effective and the NDP’s promotion of the Trans Mountain project, for example, appeared to increase support for the project.
However, he noted that the NDP’s efforts were focused on having former Prime Minister Rachel Notley convey her party’s message, and the CEC may suffer from not being linked to a particular person who is an “effective communicator.”
“It may have a positive effect,” Williams said of the CEC campaign. “Unfortunately, the legacy (of the CEC) thus far has been controversial.
“There is potentially good information (on the campaign), but it is likely to generate some different reactions.”
Williams said, for example, that he thinks some will question the CEC’s claim that Canadian oil is cleaner than other countries. Unlike campaigns targeting Canadians, “the further you go, the harder it is to get this kind of message to connect,” he said.
Olsen confirmed to Global News on Monday that the CEC’s budget for the current fiscal year is $ 10.3 million.
© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.