Postmedia has hired a former United Conservative Party staffer to join Alberta premier Jason Kenney’s energy war room.” (Flickr)
By Dale Boyd
Full disclosure: I worked for Postmedia during the first two years of my career as a journalist, and further, I have friends who still do great work for Postmedia outlets.
That said, a recent bid by the Canadian media giant to join Premiere Jason Kenney’s energy “war room” is so many kinds of backwards that I feel like I’m losing my mind.
Postmedia, who owns papers across the country including the Edmonton Journal and Calgary Herald (and the Edmonton Sun and Calgary Sun) hired a former United Conservative Party staffer to lobby the government to “discuss ways Postmedia could be involved in the government’s energy war room.”
This “war room,” is supposed to combat what the Kenney government calls misinformation on the oil and gas sector. Besides the fact this war room strategy reads like it came straight from a dictator’s playbook, or from the presumably sweat-covered notes of Premiere Doug Ford, it is extra disappointing to see media company executives jumping at the chance to discredit themselves and their paper’s respective legacies by getting in on the fight — all to get in on whatever “information,” the province plans to concoct in the room I assume looks like that one from Dr. Strangelove.
First off, hiring Kenney’s former chief of staff to lobby the Kenney government is already too cozy. Postmedia is putting all of its reporters in a corner, in a time when journalists are under the gun already when it comes to public trust. Reporter’s now have more work to do to sell their objectivity to sources and readers who have all seen the headlines about this attempt to sidle up to the UCP.
• Read more: $58.5 million fund to help Okanagan, tourism minister says
As a born-and-raised Albertan, I’m familiar with energy politics and I’m sorry to say my friends from the homeland, but you got swindled if you think oil and gas is going to bail out the provincial or national economy. More than two-thirds of oil sands production in Canada is owned by foreign entities according to reporting from the Financial Post on a study of shareholder information. Over half of Canada’s oil and gas revenue goes to foreign entities according to this report. Before you bring up pro-pipeline arguments, or how many jobs rely on oil and gas in Alberta and beyond, hold that thought because we have done this before.
Stephen Harper’s Conservative government set out to do pretty much what Kenney is focusing on now during the 2000s. Albeit the Harper government was less straightforward and much more sneaky basically faking activism. Where did that get Alberta or Canada’s energy industry? Putting profits in the hands of foreign companies apparently.
Propaganda, if you can read it without negative connotations, is information of a biased or misleading nature used to promote or publicize a particular cause or point of view. So that is what this childishly named “war room” is, according to its creator’s own definition.
I’m certain this news sent grumbles through many Alberta newsrooms like the foreshock before an earthquake.
Postmedia’s eagerness to join in on the war of information is an affront to the tradition of reporting unbiased truth and gets a “for shame,” from me, for all that’s worth. And it is a war.
I’m worried for my fellow humans at an existential level I didn’t know was possible 10 years ago. I am in the business of truth and information, and the forecast is looking dark. People don’t disagree because of a difference of opinion anymore. Now we are operating on different sets of “facts.” Efforts like this imaging strategy from the Alberta government, or Premiere Ford’s propogandist social media efforts, are an afront not only to news writers like myself, but the entire idea of a democracy for the people and by the people. I never thought I’d see the day where the Westeros, the world of Game of Thrones, has a brighter future than the one we live in. But these are indeed strange times.