Alberta war room's budget slashed in response to coronavirus pandemic

The Canadian Energy Centre will have its budget slashed for the next three months because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The CEC announced on Monday that current spending will be cut to “subsistence operations” because most of its budget was intended for paid advertising campaigns that can no longer proceed.

That means the centre will run on a reduced budget for a three-month period or until it can resume regular operations. If applied on an annual basis, that would reflect a 90-per-cent reduction to the operating budget, from $30 million to $2.84 million.

The actual dollar amount the provincial government will save from the cut, or how that funding will be redistributed, weren’t spelled out in Monday’s announcement.

Premier Jason Kenney and the United Conservative Party have long touted the centre as part of a “fight-back” strategy to counter what the government calls false or misleading information about the energy industry.

As part of these budget reductions, the CEC will take steps to end all paid advertising campaigns and pause work with outside contractors. But Alberta Energy Minister Sonya Savage said in a statement Monday the provincial government still sees a need for the centre​​​​​​.

“The world still needs reliable energy,” Savage said. “While some would like to capitalize on this unprecedented crisis to permanently shut down Canadian oil and gas, we do not believe we should surrender the global energy market to these opponents.

“The CEC will continue to be required to promote and defend Canadian energy.”

The centre has made a series of errors since it was first introduced in 2019. In its first month of operations, it had to abandon its original logo over copyright infringement, and it failed to tell an interview subject about the CEC’s connection to the provincial government.

Later, a series of tweets targeting the New York Times prompted an apology from the CEC’s managing director.

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