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Former Postmedia journalist hired by Kenney government to 'reset the record'

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Alberta Energy Minister Sonya Savage (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

Alberta Energy Minister Sonya Savage announced last night, in the words of her news release, that "award-winning oil and gas journalist Claudia Cattaneo has joined the fight against the lies and myths being spread about Alberta's energy industry."

Cattaneo, who retired last year as Postmedia's Western Canada business columnist, complained in her retirement swan song that "reporters have become collateral damage in the conflict between the two camps. Their reputations are constantly under attack and dismissed as 'oil shills' on social media by activists who'd rather see fair industry coverage suppressed."

That may reflect her experience, although I doubt it's the general perception among journalists who cover the industry.

A quick scan of headlines on Cattaneo's stories from 2015, 2016 and 2017 suggests a writer not unsympathetic to prevailing attitudes in the fossil fuel industry. Here are a few:

  • "Jason Kenney promises to restore Alberta as top energy investment destination" (This while the NDP was still in the middle of its mandate)
  • "Anti-oil activists step up opposition as Trudeau honeymoon ends"
  • "TransCanada CEO says climate change action not working to stem pipeline opponents"
  • "Notley's lawsuit to stop power companies from leaving contracts could be a 'Monty Python script'"
  • "How the West was done: 'We are getting a glimpse of an oil-free future and it's not pretty'"
  • "'We keep beating our oil industry with a stick and nobody wants to say enough is enough'"

In other words, perhaps, plus ça change, plus c'est la meme chose.

"Ms. Cattaneo has been contracted to develop a strategic plan that will lay the foundation for restoring Alberta's reputation in the fight for our oil and gas sector," Savage said in her news release. "The strategic plan will be completed and presented to government early this fall."

Cattaneo will have her work cut out for her if energy journalist Markham Hislop got it right in his report yesterday that the open letter from oil sands CEOs explicitly acknowledging the reality of global climate change published in newspaper advertisements across the country "exposes the political fault lines in the Calgary-based oil and gas sector."

"The CEOs are now aggressively selling their decarbonizing strategy in a bid for greater public support, a strategy the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers and the Jason Kenney government have rejected," Hislop wrote.

"The open letter is a tacit admission by the oil sands sector, which produces 80 per cent of Alberta's crude oil, that it has lost confidence in (CAPP CEO Tim) McMillan and CAPP," he wrote. "The letter is also a sign that the CEOs will not be cowed by Kenney, who has said publicly many times that he is not happy with their support for Rachel Notley's Climate Leadership Plan and their pursuit of 'social license' for pipeline projects."

When Savage said "the lies end now," was she referring to what the CEOs of the oils ands giants have to say? Or just those pesky foreign-funded environmentalists?

If Hislop got it right, this can't help Savage and Cattaneo in their quest to "reset the record."

David Climenhaga, author of the Alberta Diary blog, is a journalist, author, journalism teacher, poet and trade union communicator who has worked in senior writing and editing positions with The Globe and Mail and the Calgary Herald. This post also appars on David Climenhaga's blog, AlbertaPolitics.ca.

Photo: David J. Climenhaga

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