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Environment

Pipeline protest convoy approaches Ottawa after rolling across country

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OTTAWA — Hundreds of trucks are expected to roll into Ottawa Tuesday to protest the federal government’s policies on the oil industry.

The main portion of the United We Roll Convoy set out from Red Deer, Alta., last Thursday and made stops in Regina, Dryden, Thunder Bay, and Sault Ste. Marie before mustering at Arnprior, Ont., just outside the capital.

The rally is expected to occupy almost a kilometre of Wellington Street, in front of Parliament.

Lead organizer Glen Carritt says the display is about showing support for new oil pipelines and opposition to the federal carbon tax and new rules on oil transportation.

The convoy includes members of the Yellow Vest Movement, whose demonstrations across the country have had widely varying agendas, from supporting pipelines to denouncing a United Nations compact on global migration.

Demonstrators from eastern Canada are also expected to link up with the convoy.

The Canadian Press

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Environment

Alberta energy war room must avoid online morass, preaching to choir: experts

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CALGARY — Tzeporah Berman only learned of her cameo appearance at an Alberta government news conference about its so-called energy war room after a flood of nasty messages.

Industry advocate Robbie Picard held a poster calling the prominent environmentalist an “enemy of the oilsands” as he introduced Premier Jason Kenney at the Calgary event.

Berman says dozens of violent, sexist social media messages and a few frightening voicemails followed.

“The idea of putting someone’s face on a poster and holding it up at a government press conference — I’ve never seen that before,” says the longtime opponent of oilsands expansion and international program director at Stand.Earth, a grassroots environmental group.

The Kenney government aims to get its $30-million Calgary-based war room running this summer. The goal, Kenney has said, is to fight against what he calls a foreign-funded “campaign of lies and defamation” that he says has caused economic hardship by landlocking Alberta crude.

Kenney has said one measure of the war room’s success would be improved public opinion about pipelines and resource development. Political observers say that requires crafting messages that resonate outside Alberta while avoiding social media mudslinging or preaching to the choir.

Kenney spokeswoman Christine Myatt says personal threats and abuse are never acceptable and urges those who disagree with Berman to do so respectfully.

Picard, who runs the Oilsands Strong Facebook page, says unleashing abuse was not the intention of singling out Berman, but he added “professional protesters” like her should be held to account at a time when Alberta is struggling.

“There’s people in Alberta who are losing everything.”

Aside from the potential for online vitriol, the war room is problematic because the focus should be on tackling climate change, Berman says. 

“He’s wasting precious time,” she says of Kenney.

Many details, including who will lead the war room, remain to be fleshed out. Kenney has said it’s to use a mixture of advertising, publicity and social media and that staff will be able to fire volleys without having to wait hours or days for approval.

The premier feels the soft-power approach of the past has not worked.

“There’s been this notion, amongst many in the Canadian energy industry, that if we just keep our heads down and try not to be noticed and be low-profile and defensive, that somehow those organizations will walk away and focus maybe on Saudi Arabia or Russia or Venezuela,” Kenney said at the news conference.

“The weakness has been an invitation for an increasingly aggressive and increasingly dishonest campaign.”

Mount Royal University political scientist David Taras says the war room, by its very nature, is set up for conflict and that creates pitfalls.

“Give someone a hammer and they’re going to find something to hammer. Sometimes the best policy is not to respond. Sometimes the best policy is to allow someone else to respond. Sometimes the best policy is just to listen to others and watch the debate unfold,” he says.

“You can’t be drawn into the morass of the internet. You have to be able to speak on behalf of Albertans in a way that Albertans can be proud of.”

Pollster Janet Brown says she hopes the war room will do some public opinion research early and tailor its message accordingly.

The focus should be on those not firmly entrenched in either the pro- or anti-oil camps, she says.

“If they take messages that make perfect sense to Albertans and just assume they’re going to make sense to other Canadians … that could be problematic.”

Brown says the war room would be wise to avoid Twitter, where few minds can be changed, and focus its social media resources elsewhere — such as paid YouTube ads.

“If the war room is just spending their time on Twitter being outrageous, it will probably work in the favour of Greenpeace,” Brown says.

Berman says her group has seen more people wanting to donate in recent days, and she and her colleagues are looking to incorporate more compassion into their climate change messaging.

“We have, to a certain extent, been too simplistic or careless about the changes that need to happen. They are going to be hard and it’s not easy,” she says. 

“I understand when Albertans don’t want outsiders telling them what to do.”

Lauren Krugel, The Canadian Press


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Premiers’ demands on environment bills an ‘unhelpful’ threat to unity: Morneau

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OTTAWA — The federal Liberals say it’s conservative premiers who are putting Canada  at risk in a fight over oil and the environment.

Finance Minister Bill Morneau says in a letter to six right-leaning premiers Friday it’s “unhelpful to threaten national unity” if their demands to change two bills on the verge of being passed in Parliament aren’t met.

The premiers of Ontario, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, New Brunswick and the Northwest Territories wrote to the prime minister Monday urging him to amend or abandon bills restricting tanker traffic on part of B.C.’s coast and overhauling the federal environmental-assessment system for major construction projects.

The premiers said changes to the bills are needed to “avoid further alienating provinces” and “focus on uniting the country.”

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau accused the premiers of playing games with national unity to pursue their policy goals.

The written response from Morneau says the changes the premiers want would compromise Canadians’ health and jobs, infringe Indigenous people’s rights and harm endangered species.

The Canadian Press

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