CEC (aka War Room) Records address:
525 8 Ave SW #2400, Calgary, AB T2P 1G1 Phone: (403) 260-0100
Andrew Lundell [Comment to the article below in Edmonton Journal]
The saddest most unforgivable thing in this whole embarrassing episode is that it was the same $30 million dollars from the carbon tax that was funding a solar and efficiency incentive program that was literally creating jobs in the energy industry… instead this government cancelled that program and spent the money on a bunch of half-wits who just look stupid on twitter. The utter incompetence of the UCP was so predictable.
Valuable thread of tweets by Jack Speyside
Dec 17th 2019, 27 tweets, 12 min read Bookmark Save as PDF My Authors ok wow. so, I looked into the Canadian Energy Centre (formerly the “Alberta Energy War Room”) as a public agency governance expert, which is what I am irl. The way it is structured avoids alot of accountability, and potentially allows the UCP to hijack the Corporation(?) #ableg Ok, buckle up. So normally, there are two ways the gov’t creates a corporation that provides beneficial services on its behalf. The first is to just make a public agency, like with the Indigenous Opportunities Corporation. #ableg In these cases, an Act of the Legislature creates the Corp, Cabinet appoints the members, and it becomes part of a Ministry, under whichever Minister is responsible for its enabling Act. The enabling act also will set out if and how the Corp can make money #ableg These enabling Acts will define the reporting relationship. Corporations that handle money are usually required to make detailed financial reports annually. Here’s the IOC’s for an example. #ableg
These agencies are almost always are brought under FOIP as well, meaning anybody can access nearly any of their records. The FOIP Reg has an involved schedule that lists all the public bodies subject to FOIP, sorted by responsible Minister. #ableg
These corporations are also subject to the Alberta Public Agencies Governance Act, which sets governance requirements, especially how the board of directors is to be selected and how long a board member may serve. #ableg
being a public agency for the purpose of APAGA also invokes requirements under the Reform of Agencies Boards and Commissions Compensation Act, which set salary and benefit rules for agencies and their execs. Even high rollers are not immune, as you can see #ableg
Being an APAGA Agency also invokes the Conflicts of Interest Act, which requires the Corporation to have a Code of Conduct that the Ethics Commissioner approves and that has real legal teeth, and sets conflict rules for the CEO and board Chair. #ableg The CEC is not subject to any of these oversight rules. #Ableg Instead it is structured as a “Designated Administrative Organization”. these are basically a non-government corporation that is given power by the Government to deliver services on its behalf. #ableg This is usually done to keep an industry service within the control of that industry, but keep it accountable to government (which gives it its power to operate, and often money – or the legal authority to make money by charging fees and such). #ableg These are normally Corporations created under the Societies Act or the Business Corporations Act by somebody other than Government, who Government has an arrangement with. Usually they get their powers by regulation, and that comes with accountability and reporting rules #ableg Take Livestock Identification Services, which delivers the gov’t’s livestock tracability services, which doesn’t usually receive gov’t money but has robust reporting requirements just because the gov’t *gives it power to make money*. #ableg
There are fewer accountability tools here, for example htere’s no control of salary and usually these Corps aren’t subject to disclosure under FOIP, but CEC is not subject to this lower tier of accountability either. #ableg The CEC is incorporated under the Business Corporations Act, like any for-profit. Its records office is a Calgary corporate Law Firm (not subject to FOIP), and (here is the important thing) the Directors are three UCP MLAs who are also Cabinet Ministers. #ableg
Now, it is possible that the Corporate Bylaws of the CEC give the government the right to appoint certain Ministers as a Director; the CEC doesn’t publish its bylaws. But it *appears* that these people have been appointed in their personal capacity. #ableg The CEC *is* a “Provincial Corporation” for the purpose of the Financial Administration Act. This means the Government can advance it money directly out of Treasury Board, and CEC has to report *to Treasury Board* IF *Treasury Board* asks. #ableg There are some other very high level reporting requirements WRT indemnities and loans; basically they amount to knowing what the gov’t pays the CEC. But for instance, if the CEC takes money from companies, advocates, even another gov’t, it doesn’t have to report that. #ableg The main accountability mechanism is that the Government is the sole shareholder; as such, it has all the powers and rights a shareholder under the AB Business Corporations Act would, although it is not clear *who* could exercise them. #ableg When there is an enabling Act for a public agency or DAO, the Designation and Transfer or Responsibility Regulation tells us who represents the Crown WRT that Corporation. The Desi Reg does *not* establish responsibility for the CEC. #ableg But in theory, once these reports are delivered, they could be subject to FOIP: once you could figure out where to look. Each Ministry has its own FOIP Coordinator, and if the docs end up in the Directors’ MLA Offices – rather than Ministerial Offices – they’re gone. #ableg
But Government holds the hammer in that, as the sole shareholder, it could wind up the CEC. The shareholders would split any money in CEC and that would be that. But there’s a *big* problem there. #ableg Under the ABBCA, the Directors have the power to issue shares, subject to any restrictions to Corporation has placed on itself. The CEC has created 2 classes of shares, and it may issue an unlimited number. That’s… totally improper, and highly unorthodox #ableg
So, let’s imagine the UCP government were to lose the 2023 Election. Let’s also imagine that these UCP Directors do serve in their personal capacity, and created the corporation in a way to disguise that, as it appears. Let’s also imagine they aren’t ethically scrupulous. #ableg Before the new government forms and can assign responsibility under the DesiReg, the UCP Directors could issue themselves and other UCP members CEC shares. This would allow them to block winding up, *or* to receive leftover (taxpayer) money in the CEC if it were to wind-up #ableg wow this blew up, thank you for the nice thinks folks have said and taking an interest in my boring field. the main thing i have seen is: “what can be done”? this is potentially a breech of the COIA for the MLA directors. I’ll post my letter to the ethics commissioner later.
A few of the comments to the article below in Calgary Herald & Edmonton Journal:
The “War Room” is nothing more than a fake news content mill. A 30 million dollar blog run by Post Media’s finest. An afront to democracy and, it would be an insult to journalism, if journalism hadn’t died decades ago. …
War room is a GIANT WASTE OF MONEY – no one is paying any attention to what it is doing and we’re having to lay off thousands of people to pay for it.
Arturo Sosa Reply to Sue Blanchard
Could you ask your boss in the War Room if they actually have a plan? Or is it to just spam message boards with the same comment over and over.
Drive wooden stake through its heart after shooting it with a silver bullet!
Kenney won’t cancel the war room…….how will they replace all the positive comments on herald boards and the Twitter accounts set up for the purpose of propaganda.
He will be remembered as more incompetent than Stelmach, more dishonest than Redford.
Rob Davies Reply to Sue Blanchard
Come on Sue, you must realize by now who this government is catering too? It certainly isn’t Albertans!
Don’t often agree with you Rob but this is one idea that should have been kiboshed when it first came up. A waste of $30M to pander to the base.
Breakenridge: It’s time to put the war room out of its misery by Rob Breakenridge, Feb 18, 2020, Calgary Herald
It seemed harsh and premature in early January to declare, as the opposition NDP did, that the Canadian Energy Centre (a.k.a. the war room) was a “costly, ridiculous failure” and needed to be shut down.
But sitting here a month and a half later, it’s now hard to disagree with that argument. After the latest round of gaffes and embarrassments for the Canadian Energy Centre, it’s become clear that the time is now for the Alberta government to cut its losses and put an end to this experiment. This approach clearly isn’t working and it’s impossible to see how the centre’s $30-million annual budget can still be defended.
Premier Jason Kenney has frequently invoked the spirit of Premier Ralph Klein in pressing ahead with tough decisions in the face of fierce opposition. But it’s time for him to invoke the Klein spirit in another important way: knowing when to admit you were wrong and being willing to change direction.
In a way, it’s almost unfortunate that the NDP called for the war room to be shut down, given how politics these days seems to mean never conceding a point to your political opponents. But the inevitable “we told you so” from the NDP will lose a lot of its political sting if the government is seen to be genuinely candid and contrite in acknowledging its mistake and correcting course.
It’s been relatively easy as of late to forget that the centre exists at all, but they were certainly garnering attention last week amid a spate of apologies and deleted tweets.
First was a retweet that showed up on the centre’s Twitter feed, spreading an inaccurate claim about the emissions from the proposed Teck Frontier oilsands mine. When the war room was called out on the tweet, the response was, “Whoops. That was done in error. I was givener this morning and got a little carried away. Sorry about that.”
Now, it’s a little alarming that it’s that easy for false information to be sent out by such a well-funded operation, especially since its stated mission is to counter misinformation about the oil and gas industry. If you dabble in misinformation, it’s a lot harder to lecture others about doing so.
That was followed by a lengthy Twitter thread on the centre’s account in response to a New York Times article about international investors turning sour on fossil fuels. The centre’s response, however, went in several strange directions, enough so that the tweets were deleted and the CEO himself apologized.
Tom Olsen said the tone of the tweets “did not meet CEC’s standard for public discourse” and that there would be a new response to the New York Times article posted. It’s hard to see how the second go-around on that would have much credibility.
There’s been a serious and arguably fatal erosion of credibility for the centre, but that’s assuming people are reading its work in the first place. [ROARING LAUGHTER!] The centre’s Twitter account only has about 5,800 followers and most of its tweets have little to no interaction. How is any of this changing hearts and minds?
And what void is being filled by the centre in the first place? The industry group CAPP (Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers) and the grassroots organization Canada Action both have much larger social media footprints than the centre and both do a much better job in communicating the importance and ingenuity of the oil and gas industry and responding to the industry’s critics. The same could even be said of Energy Minister Sonya Savage herself.
We’re at a crucial point when it comes to several major pipeline and oilsands projects and we can’t just traipse along pretending that the war room is effective or hoping that it eventually will be. The centre is not moving the needle in any significant way, and its foibles only serve to discredit the very message it’s supposed to be spreading.