Alberta Premier Jason Kenney is not backing down from a meme sent out over his social media that calls into question the validity of green energy policy.
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The meme borrows from the Oscars on Sunday, showing actor Will Smith striking host Chris Rock over a joke he made about Smith’s wife, Jada Pinkett Smith. The image is captioned with “Green Energy Policy” over Rock and “Reality” over Smith.
“This is a meme that’s taken over the internet. It’s a creative way of making a point,” Kenney said in a press conference on Monday over the noon hour in which he called on the federal government to repeal the carbon tax for this year, which is set to rise on Friday.
“It’s a relevant way of making a point,” he said. “In this case, the point that reality is intruding on the failed policies of the green-left that have sought to make life more expensive for everybody; drive up inflation, food costs, fuel costs and also reduce development of energy from democracies like Canada.”
The provincial government has an official green energy policy that lays out its environmental initiatives and has announced millions of dollars in funding for different initiatives in collaboration with business partners around the province. This includes $13 million announced on March 17 to fund green energy initiatives through 22 different projects.
The province has touted its efforts to achieve net-zero and be a leader in green tech, which includes being at the forefront of carbon capture and storage technology while oilsands companies push to become carbon neutral and improve their impacts.
The meme does not specify leftist green energy policy.
“He’s working completely counter to the goals,” said NDP energy critic Kathleen Ganley in a media availability in Edmonton Monday afternoon. “We have done a lot to prove that we are serious. A lot of these companies have done a lot to prove that they’re serious, and he’s doing his best to make us appear that we aren’t serious on this file. And I think that really does drive investment away from Alberta. And I think that that’s a huge problem for us.”
She added that she believes this is an attempt to distract from the issues Kenney is having as he seeks to maintain the United Conservative Party’s leadership and his hold on the premier’s seat.
Martin Olszynski, an associate professor at the University of Calgary faculty of law with research areas in environmental law and policy, said this move appears to be political to appeal to his base as he tries to keep his job.
It is at the expense, however, of the province’s image that it is trying to project to the rest of the world as being on the forefront of the transition away from carbon intense energy. Energy Minister Sonya Savage was even in Regina on Monday morning talking about the province’s participation in the Small Modular Reactor agreement with Ontario, Saskatchewan and New Brunswick in an effort to further Alberta’s net-zero goals.
“It creates a negative vibe and image of the province,” said Olszynski. “We have reported recently, for instance, about young people leaving the province and it’s unlikely that these kinds of stunts are going to attract those same young people, that same talent pool that we need to be working in our offices and businesses.”
The meme was met with scorn online, including from former Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi who noted that someone thought this was a good idea, ran it past others, likely including Kenney, and still thought it should be posted. “They’ve completely lost the thread,” he tweeted.
Others who were on the frontlines with the province previously also spoke out.
This included former chief of staff to Environment and Parks Minister Jason Nixon, Megan Griffith, who tweeted she was “embarrassed to have ever worked for this government.” She called the premier’s communications staff “amateurs as communicators” for not being able to see how offensive the tweet is.
Critics have called out the use of violence not just propagated by Smith but that the premier approved of it to try to make a clever point. Many conservatives were quick in the past to hammer Canadian environmental activist David Suzuki for encouraging the use of violence to stop pipelines.
— With files from Lisa Johnson, Edmonton Journal
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