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$22 Million Allocated for Advertising Alberta’s Oil and Gas Industry in ‘War Room’

An annual report filed by Alberta’s energy “war room,” otherwise known as the Canadian Energy Centre, allocated $22 million in the last fiscal year for advertising and a media campaign to promote the province’s oil and gas industry.

According to the annual report, filed at the end of August, part of the budget included a Request for Proposal for an Agency of Record to undertake ad campaigns.

The Canadian Energy Centre (CEC) is a provincial corporation founded in 2019 by a previous United Conservative government to provide information on the province’s energy industry. At the time, a spokeswoman for then-premier Jason Kenney said the CEC’s “internal operations are not subject to FOIP, as this would provide a tactical and/or strategic advantage to the very foreign-funded special interests the CEC is looking to counter.”

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As the CEC was incorporated by the provincial government, it is not considered a “public body,” and is not subject to requests for information under various access acts.

Over the years, the “war room” has launched multiple billboard and advertising campaigns to promote Alberta oil as a clean, responsible option for other countries.

The most recent ad campaign was planned for the United States, Europe, the United Kingdom, and Canada, but details of its progress were not provided.

A search of the U.S. Department of Justice Foreign Agents Registration Act brings up a number of records; for example, the CEC registered with the United States for a six-month period ending March 31, and contracted a marketing and communications company to perform “advertising and public relations services, including materials informing the American public about the Canadian energy industry,” specifically directed to “public-facing media.”

Other documents state the CEC placed ads in the Wall Street Journal for $159,593.51. Altogether, advertising directed toward the United States came to $1.7 million out of a total budget of $3.8 million. Of that, there was US$150,000 spent on “rapid response media criticism.”

“Experts agree that even with the most aggressive push for renewable energy the transition to a low-carbon economy is decades away,” one ad said. “When America chooses Canadian oil, it helps provide reliable, responsible, and affordable energy that is committed to environmental excellence.”

Spending allocated for the United Kingdom and Europe was budgeted at $5.7 million, with an additional $22 million budgeted for Canadian-based campaigns.

The CEC said in a statement that there were “a variety of advertisers on a variety of campaigns,” with the lead advertising agency a company called DDB with offices in Edmonton and Washington.

New Democrat Party energy critic Kathleen Ganley suggested the money could be spent elsewhere. “There’s a lot of things the government could do with that money,” said Ms. Ganley.

The Canadian Press contributed to this report.

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