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Oil Sands Strong

Canadian Energy Centre (CEC)

Background

The Canadian Energy Centre (CEC) is an Alberta provincial government corporation formed to promote the province’s fossil fuel industry, in part by fighting what it has described as “domestic and foreign-funded campaigns against Canada’s oil and gas industry.”

At its launch on December 11, 2019, the CEC was referred to as the “Energy War Room.” 1

“The CEC is a provincial corporation under the financial administration act that will largely be funded by Alberta’s energy industry, through the new Technology Innovation and Emissions Reduction (TIER) fund,” the Canadian Energy Centre’s CEO and managing director Tom Olsen wrote on the group’s website at launch. “At its core, the CEC’s mandate is to create a new, pragmatic, fact-based narrative about Canadian energy.” 2

Initial Incorporation and Funding

The Canadian Energy Centre Ltd. was incorporated as a provincial corporation under the Business Corporations Act of Alberta on October 9, 2019. Its annual report notes that “as a provincial corporation, the Corporation is exempt from income taxes under the Income Tax Act.”3

According to the 2019 Alberta Fiscal Plan, over the next four years $80 million Canadian (about USD$60 million) would be set aside for the Canadian Energy Centre out of Alberta’s carbon tax, or Technology Innovation and Emissions Reduction (TIER) program. The fiscal plan document notes that (emphasis added):

“TIER significantly reduces overall compliance costs across regulated facilities, relative to the Carbon Competitiveness Incentive Regulation, while still achieving comparable Greenhouse gas reductions. Over the next four years, revenue from the TIER system is estimated to be $1.9 billion. Of this, $672 million will be allocated to deficit reduction and $80 million supporting the Canadian Energy Centre to respond in real-time to misinformation about Alberta’s energy industry. $1.2 billion will fund emissions reduction and innovation, including $324 million for Carbon Capture and Storage projects and $116 million for the Oil Sands Innovation Fund to continue investment in high emitting in situ facilities to reduce emissions intensity, resulting in improvements to industry competitiveness and increased operational efficiency.”

According to the 2019 Fiscal Plan, the CEC would be allotted C$30 million (about USD$25 million) per year, sourced from different lines on the provicial budget: 4

“$10 million of this funding is being reprofiled from the current government advertising budget; and $20 million will be supported by TIER revenues. In addition, $2.5 million is budgeted for the public inquiry into foreign funding of anti-energy campaigns, which was announced in July 2019,” the budget document notes.

The Alberta government describes the TIER program as “Alberta’s industrial greenhouse gas emissions pricing regulation and emissions trading system.”5

Genesis of the CEC

Jason Kenney referenced a “fully staffed rapid response war room in government to quickly and effectively rebut every lie told by the green left about our world-class energy industry” as early as May 9, 2018, in a speech at the founding annual general meeting of the United Conservative Party. “If companies like HSBC decide to boycott our oil sands, our government will boycott them. It’s called a market decision,” Kenney said in his speech.6

Kenney first announced the “Fight Back Strategy for Alberta’s energy industry” in the summer of 2019.

Oil Sands Strong founder Robbie Picard was introduced in one press briefing by Jason Kenney in Calgary on the emerging war room. Canadian blogger Vivian Krause, who has admitted to receiving hundreds of thousands of dollars from the energy industry over the years8, can also be seen in the background of the video recorded by CBC Calgary and posted to Facebook:

Immunity to Freedom of Information Law

Despite being government-funded, the CEC’s incorporation as a provincial corporation has made it effectively immune to Canada’s Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FOIP).10

According to a defense of this policy in 2019 by the office of Alberta Premier Jason Kenney, “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.”11

Registration as a Foreign Agent in the U.S.

In 2021, the CEC launched an advertising campaign in the U.S. to promote Canadian oil. It was noted in the footer of one of its associated websites, Friendlyenergy.com, that the group is a “registered foreign principal under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA),” a U.S. law requiring persons representing or politically advocating for foreign interests to register with the U.S. Department of Justice. 12

According to the Justice Department website, “the central purpose of FARA is to promote transparency with respect to foreign influence within the United States by ensuring that the United States government and the public know the source of certain information from foreign agents intended to influence American public opinion, policy, and laws, thereby facilitating informed evaluation of that information.”13

PressProgress reported that the Canadian Energy Centre Ltd. registered under the FARA law in late summer 2021,14 according to Justice Department documents.15

Another registration document noted the CEC’s intention to “Influence American public opinion with respect to the Canadian oil and gas industry” (emphasis added).16

In its registration document, the CEC described the nature of its business as follows:17

“The Canadian Energy Centre (CEC) is an independent corporation established and supported by the provincial government of Alberta. The mission of the CEC is to advance Canada as the supplier of choice for the world’s growing demand for responsibly produced energy.”

The registration also outlined the CEC’s organizational structure as follows:

“The CEC is managed by a CEO, who also serves as Managing Director. It is supervised by a Board of Directors. The Board is made up of three cabinet ministers from the Alberta government. Financial support for the CEC is provided by the Technology, Innovation and Emissions Reduction Fund (TIER), created by the Government of Alberta. The sole shareholder of the CEC is the Government of Alberta. The Government of Alberta does not supervise, direct or control the daily operations of the CEC.”

Source: https://www.desmog.com/canadian-energy-centre-cec/

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