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“Well funded” dirty oil campaigns in Europe and the US are starting to hurt Canada’s energy companies financially.

November 23, 2009

Province blasted for not sticking up for oilsands

Alberta’s government and energy industry must step up their listless defence of the oilsands and better fund their PR battle against environmental groups, says the president of the Alberta Enterprise Group.

“If we’re serious about defending this asset, we need to spend some money on it,” Tim Shipton told an industry conference yesterday.

“I don’t see enough effort being made to position this as Canada’s energy project.”

Environmental groups, he said, are well funded and their campaigns in the United States and Europe are starting to hurt Canada’s energy companies financially.

Shipton’s criticism comes more than 10 months after David Collyer, head of the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, admitted the oilsands industry has so far been losing the battle of public perception against environmental groups.

To illustrate his point, Shipton mentioned a conversation with an unnamed Conservative MP.

The MP, Shipton said, was puzzled that over the past year, only one industry representative gave a presentation to a House of Commons committee examining the environmental impact of the oilsands. During the same time, various environmental groups had given 20 presentations.

“The private sector needs to become more active,” Shipton said.

The government, too, must step up its efforts to defend the source of much of this country’s wealth by increasing the budget of Alberta’s office in the U.S. capital, he said.

The Washington, D.C. office, with its staff of four, had a budget of $1.4 million (expenses actually were $1.6 million) during the last fiscal year.

Shipton declined to say what he’d consider a more adequate budget, noting, however, that the $25 million the government is spending on developing a new brand for the province would have been better spent promoting Alberta’s interests south of the border and fighting the “dirty oil” label environmental groups stuck to the oilsands.

Mike Deising, spokesman for Alberta International and Intergovernmental Relations, said budgets for the province’s international offices are reviewed annually.

He said the Washington office is a “key component in our strategy to engage our U.S. stakeholders,” and pointed out that Premier Ed Stelmach and cabinet ministers try to promote the oilsands whenever they are travelling to the U.S. or Europe.


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