The article you just read was brought to you by a few thousand dedicated readers. Will you join them?

Thanks for coming by The Tyee and reading one of many original articles we’ll post today. Our team works hard to publish in-depth stories on topics that matter on a daily basis. Our motto is: No junk. Just good journalism.

Just as we care about the quality of our reporting, we care about making our stories accessible to all who want to read them and provide a pleasant reading experience. No intrusive ads to distract you. No paywall locking you out of an article you want to read. No clickbait to trick you into reading a sensational article.

There’s a reason why our site is unique and why we don’t have to rely on those tactics — our Tyee Builders program. Tyee Builders are readers who chip in a bit of money each month (or one-time) to our editorial budget. This amazing program allows us to pay our writers fairly, keep our focus on quality over quantity of articles, and provide a pleasant reading experience for those who visit our site.

In the past year, we’ve been able to double our staff team and boost our reporting. We invest all of the revenue we receive into producing more and better journalism. We want to keep growing, but we need your support to do it.

Fewer than 1 in 100 of our average monthly readers are signed up to Tyee Builders. If we reach 1% of our readers signing up to be Tyee Builders, we could continue to grow and do even more.

If you appreciate what The Tyee publishes and want to help us do more, please sign up to be a Tyee Builder today. You pick the amount, and you can cancel any time.

Support our growing independent newsroom and join Tyee Builders today.
Before you click away, we have something to ask you…

Do you value independent journalism that focuses on the issues that matter? Do you think Canada needs more in-depth, fact-based reporting? So do we. If you’d like to be part of the solution, we’d love it if you joined us in working on it.

The Tyee is an independent, paywall-free, reader-funded publication. While many other newsrooms are getting smaller or shutting down altogether, we’re bucking the trend and growing, while still keeping our articles free and open for everyone to read.

The reason why we’re able to grow and do more, and focus on quality reporting, is because our readers support us in doing that. Over 5,000 Tyee readers chip in to fund our newsroom on a monthly basis, and that supports our rockstar team of dedicated journalists.

Join a community of people who are helping to build a better journalism ecosystem. You pick the amount you’d like to contribute on a monthly basis, and you can cancel any time.

Help us make Canadian media better by joining Tyee Builders today.
We value: Our readers.
Our independence. Our region.
The power of real journalism.
Get our free newsletter
Sign Up

Jason Kenney’s Government Denounces the Bigfoot Family

Alberta’s War Room trains its guns on a Netflix cartoon movie.

Andrew Nikiforuk 15 Mar 2021 |

Tyee contributing editor Andrew Nikiforuk is an award-winning journalist whose books and articles focus on epidemics, the energy industry, nature and more.

Jason Kenney’s spin shop the Canadian Energy Centre (otherwise known as the War Room) has stuck another foot in its oily mouth.

This time it is a really big foot.

The $30-million CEC, created to sell Canada as a supplier of choice “for responsibly produced energy,” is attacking a cartoon called Bigfoot Family.

To be clear, it’s not real. It’s a cartoon. Specifically, it’s a new and popular Netflix cartoon in which a family befriended by talking animals includes a Dad who just happens to be a Bigfoot and who goes to Alaska. Not a nature program. Not an investigative report. Not even one of those tracking-Sasquatch pseudo-documentaries. Just a cartoon. A cartoon not even about Canada.

In Alaska, Bigfoot encounters a company called Xtract, which falsely bills itself as a source of clean oil and wants to trash a wilderness area.

Well, in Calgary, that quickly rose to the top of the War Room’s priority list.

Kenney’s government, which tirelessly promotes fossil fuels as well as open-pit coal mining in the Canadian Rockies by foreign extractors, has accused the cartoon’s makers of “spreading misinformation about the oil and gas industry.”

Because the oilsands, as every Canadian knows, have never trashed anything.  

Summoning every drop of its righteous vehemence, Kenney’s War Room wants TV viewers to sign a petition denouncing the evil children’s fare.

“Brainwashing our kids with anti-oil and gas propaganda is just wrong — and Netflix needs to know that!” thundered the Canadian Energy Centre. “Our children are the key to the future — but they can’t succeed if they’re filled with misinformation.”

Another day’s work for the team of Tom Olsen, the former UCP candidate now head of the War Room — who has noted that what exactly he does all day is not easily grasped. As he proclaimed in December, "There's not a huge knowledge of what we do and how we do it and how we benefit the world.”

No there is not.

But Olsen explained it: “We are about disproving true facts.”

For the record, the Canadian Energy Centre, a reliable source of misinformation, has a long and consistent history of sticking feet of various sizes in its mouth.

It ripped off a logo from another company without their permission.

It took aim at the ramparts of power by attacking a Medicine Hat reporter for offering the opinion that the War Room was a propaganda factory in a democracy.

It aimed even a bit higher, chastising the New York Times as a “very dodgy” organization for reporting what CEC doesn’t: that international investment in the oilsands is drying up.  

Its website offers a fairytale version of a petro state so gauzy and glowing it is worthy of Disney. The site claims, for example, that industry is pumping “hundreds of billions of dollars into Canadian coffers.”

But that’s not the real picture. Despite 47 per cent growth in Canada’s oil and gas production since 2000 — largely from the tarsands — royalty payments to government have declined 59 per cent, notes respected energy analyst David Hughes.

So, too, has the industry’s proportional contribution to GDP.

According to data from Natural Resources Canada, taxes paid by the oil and gas industry since 2006 have dropped from $12 billion to $6 billion.

In Alberta, oil and gas companies now owe rural municipalities more than $245 million in back taxes. 

CEC portrays Alberta’s oil regulators as ethical heroes. Yet in 2019, three separate Alberta government investigations slammed the controversial Alberta Energy Regulator for mismanagement, the misuse of millions of public dollars and conflict of interest.

And not to draw any parallels with the themes of Bigfoot Family, but Alberta under Kenney seeks unfettered growth of a polluting oil and gas industry whose unfunded abandoned wells and clean up liabilities are by highly credible estimates $260 billion.

“True facts,” as Olsen might say. Though his War Room is AWOL when it comes to disproving them. (There was that one time the War Roomers did try to trash an expert’s facts. They had their asses handed back to them.)

By any measure, Kenney’s “War Room” is what the great writer Kurt Vonnegut would call a “granfalloon… a proud and meaningless collection of human beings.”

As Jason Kenney’s government now girds for its latest cartoonish war, the premier himself is increasingly embattled. In fact, his show is in danger of being cancelled.

Latest polls say that if an election were held today, Kenney’s United Conservative Party would be trounced by voters. The citizenry apparently is less interested in Bigfoot than an old-fashioned big boot.  [Tyee]

Read more: Energy, Politics

Share this article

The Tyee is supported by readers like you

Join us and grow independent media in Canada

Facts matter. Get The Tyee's in-depth journalism delivered to your inbox for free

Tyee Commenting Guidelines

Do not:

  •  Use sexist, classist, racist or homophobic language
  • Libel or defame
  • Bully, threaten, name-call or troll
  • Troll patrol. Instead, downvote, or flag suspect activity
  • Attempt to guess other commenters’ real-life identities


  • Verify facts, debunk rumours
  • Add context and background
  • Spot typos and logical fallacies
  • Highlight reporting blind spots
  • Ignore trolls and flag violations
  • Treat all with respect and curiosity
  • Stay on topic
  • Connect with each other


The Barometer

Tyee Poll: What Coverage Would You Like to See More of This Year?

Take this week's poll