Kenney Calls On Industry To Increase Investment In Advocacy

The oil and gas industry should significantly increase its public education and advocacy efforts, United Conservative Party leader Jason Kenney said in an interview with the Daily Oil Bulletin late last week.

Kenney is also calling for a more forceful — and faster — defence of industry by government, company and association leaders when the sector comes under attack.

Industry “missed the ball” starting about 15 years ago when highly co-ordinated campaigns began to “landlock Canadian energy,” he said.

The response by the energy sector was not as strong as it should have been, said Kenney, who noted the situation was exacerbated both by the nature of the attacks and how many within industry perceived them.

“I think our industry is filled with brilliant, linear, left-brain thinkers — geologists, engineers and finance experts — who think in perfectly logical syllogisms and have had a hard time grasping the irrational world of politics and the irrational, emotive attacks against our energy industry.”

Kenney lauded several recent advocacy initiatives, however, during his interview with the DOB.

He commended the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP), for instance, “for having upped its game.”

“I think projects like the Energy Citizens initiative, which is an effort to identify grassroots allies and support, has been quite useful.”

In addition, the UCP leader spoke positively about how many small- and medium-sized companies are supporting the Modern Miracle Network, which he called a clearinghouse for effective pro-oil and gas advocacy.

He also commended small, upstart non-profits, including Suits and Boots, Canada Action and Debunk, which he said are typically started by young Albertans that are “tired of the campaign of defamation” against the industry.

“So I think all of those efforts together mean there is stronger advocacy, but it’s still not strong enough,” he noted. “And so I would like to see increased investment. Our oilpatch has invested a tiny fraction of a per cent of the profits that it’s generated from our resources [back into] public education and advocacy.”

Kenney would also like to see Alberta’s energy companies become more assertive, suggesting they seek to replicate the tactics of Resolute Forest Products, which sued Greenpeace for US$300 million for what it alleged were damages resulting from “malicious and defamatory accusations” about Canadian forestry practices.

“Now ultimately that case may not be successful, but they forced Greenpeace to lawyer up, and to admit under oath in discoveries that they had purposely lied about Canada’s forestry policies in order to raise money from their donors,” Kenney said.

It’s that kind of strong action the UCP leader is looking for.

He’s also looking for support for measures that will advance the research of people like Vivian Krause, a Vancouver-based researcher whose extensive digging has connected the dots between American foundations exercising foreign influence by funneling millions to Canada’s not-for-profit anti-oil and gas movement — most prominently, Corporate Ethics’ Tar Sands Campaign.

‘We have to move fast…’

Kenney also commented on the proposed motion brought forward last month by Toronto city councillor Mike Layton, for Canada’s largest city to consider suing over climate change costs. (It’s the latest example of a trend of Canadian municipalities and cities wanting to sue oil and gas companies for damages caused by climate change — see here for the City of Victoria attempt.)

“The next day … I wrote a four-page letter to every Toronto city councillor and Mayor John Tory. I got on the phone and called Mayor Tory and a bunch of Toronto city councillors who I know. I explained to them that this would inflame a growing national unity crisis in Alberta and I explained the degree to which the Toronto economy benefits both from the oilsands through various manufacturing enterprises and from fiscal federalism.

“I think I was the only person in Alberta to pick up the phone and make the case, and to write to these guys. As a result of which, the city council in Toronto shelved it.

“[But] here’s my point: Where was the energy industry? Why wasn’t the president of Suncor and the president of CAPP … and their colleagues on the phones to Toronto city councillors? We have to move fast, and stop being so darn polite….”

Kenney said the Layton motion at Toronto city council was the brainchild of Environmental Defence, which is promoting a campaign of “law-fare” against the oil and gas industry.

“You just don’t sit around passively and let something like that pass, and then grumble about it. We have to be leaning forward against initiatives like this, to catch them before they get too far. And that will certainly be my disposition should I be elected premier, and I just want to encourage industry to do the same thing.”