“Here’s a Hollywood production that depicts an oil company … as wanting to murder children to oppose environmental progress…The NDP, that’s who they’re defending…They’ve always been against our largest industry.” – Jason Kenney doubling down on the War Room’s anti-Bigfoot campaign
Here we are, bracing for the third wave of a global pandemic, slogging through an economic slowdown and facing massive job losses…and Jason Kenney is railing on about a kids’ cartoon.
For the sake of argument, let’s assume the poor man hasn’t completely lost his mind; let’s put his outburst in the context of a politician who is willing to risk ridicule to defend the War Room for trying to defend the oil and gas sector.
This might have been okay if the War Room delivered results, but it doesn’t.
Kenney created the Canadian Energy Centre, aka the War Room, as part of his promise to deliver “jobs, economy, pipelines” and usher in a new age of prosperity for Albertans.
The War Room’s job is to defend Alberta’s natural resources by promoting energy literacy, research, and rapid response. The anti-Bigfoot campaign is part of its rapid response activities.
War Room CEO Tom Olsen objected to the cartoon’s message saying it is one-sided and polarizing because it “creates no room for conversation.” Remember that statement, we’ll come back to it later.
Assuming Olsen’s characterization is correction, how effective is calling out a kid’s cartoon at supporting Kenney’s campaign promise to deliver jobs, economy, pipelines.
Short answer: It’s not. Because the loss of jobs and the negative impact on Alberta’s economy are the result of consolidation in the industry in response to changes in the global market, not the negative impact (assuming there is one) of a child’s cartoon in which an oil executive is plotting to blow up an oil field and kill the Bigfoot family and their cute little pets.
Consolidation and job loss
The energy sector has been in consolidation/restructuring mode for years.
Last year Cenovus announced its takeover of Husky would result in a cut of up to 25% of its workforce (2,150 jobs) and Suncor announced plans to eliminate up to 15% of its workforce (2000 jobs).
This is part of a global pattern. Royal Dutch Shell is cutting up to 9,000 jobs worldwide, BP is cutting up to 10,000.
Consolidation and restructuring results in fewer jobs, but make the companies more profitable, so this trend will continue.
Kenney’s response to these announcements is we should not be surprised, the oil companies have already “compressed costs.” He implored the companies to do everything they could “to keep the workforce intact” and reminded them that these hardworking employees helped deliver record profits in the good times which, he assured the companies, would return. Then he hammered the Federal government for not doing more to keep the energy companies happy.
It’s unfortunate Kenney didn’t listen when Suncor explained exactly why these cuts were necessary.
Suncor said the unprecedented drop in oil prices, the global pandemic and economic slowdown, and market volatility accelerated its plans to make “permanent structural workforce reductions.”
These permanent structural workforce reductions are possible because the companies are relying more heavily on data and technology than they have in the past. And guess what, they’re not going to return to a less efficient way of working if or when the price of oil goes up.
A meaningful conversation
Tom Olsen, the War Room’s CEO, was right about one thing, we need to talk, not about stupid things like Jane Fonda wearing a nylon jacket when she complained about the oilsands or whether North Face was wrong not to sell jackets to an oil company.
Instead, the premier should be talking about how to diversify Alberta’s economy, strengthen its educational institutions, and use its existing infrastructure and workforce to move Alberta’s economy into the 21st century.
He should not be squawking about a kid’s cartoon or before you know it we’ll be putting taxpayer dollars into campaigns attacking Disney for wicked stepmother movies (in Cinderella her evil stepmother turns her into a scullery maid) and evil hunter movies (in Bambi a hunter called “Man” kills Bambi’s mother and sets the forest on fire).
Really, premier, it’s time to grow up.