Prime Minister Stephen Harper is coming up short on oilsands public relations war – by Gillian Steward (Toronto Star – August 27, 2012)

The Toronto Star has the largest circulation in Canada. The paper has an enormous impact on federal and Ontario politics as well as shaping public opinion.

Gillian Steward is a Calgary writer and journalist, and former managing editor of the Calgary Herald. Her column appears every other week. gsteward@telus.net.

Is the Harper government growing increasingly nervous about opposition to its push for massive oil sands development and the North Gateway Pipeline?
 
It would seem so listening to five Calgarians and a wannabe Calgarian from Quebec who were vying for the Conservative nomination for a by-election in the riding of Calgary Centre, home to dozens of oil company towers and one of the safest Conservative seats in the country.
 
They just didn’t sound that confident about the Prime Minister’s tactics for winning the hearts and minds of Canadians outside Alberta. “Alberta needs some friends….We need to get out the message about our industry to Ontario, to the rest of Canada,” former journalist Joan Crockatt told a public forum last week.
 
Crockatt eventually won the nomination. Her journalism experience, she said, made her the best suited of all the contestants to tell Canadians just how important the oil sands are to the country’s economy. She also believes the PCs need to step up their defense of the oil industry rather than let environmentalists control the game.
 
“We are looking after our environment …we’re proud of what we are contributing to the national scene,” she said.
 
But Crockatt wasn’t the only Conservative vying for that prized nomination who believes the Harper government needs to do more to convince the rest of Canada that oil sands development is good for them.
 
Rick Billington, a lawyer and member of the Prime Minister’s constituency association board, said the energy industry needs a strong advocate and he was eager to take on the job because “Harper can’t carry the file alone.”
 
Jon Lord a former PC MLA and Calgary alderman said “we need to tell our story better.”
 
If this seems a particularly Alberta view of the world, it isn’t. Apparently even some people from Quebec feel the same way.
 
For the rest of this column, please go to the Toronto Star website: http://www.thestar.com/opinion/article/1247840–harper-falling-short-on-oilsands-pr-war

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