Both sides of climate change debate seeding grassroots before Alberta panel

Advocates on both sides of Alberta’s climate change debate are mobilizing their grassroots in hopes of influencing the panel that will recommend how the province should address the issue.

EDMONTON — Advocates on both sides of Alberta’s climate change debate are mobilizing their grassroots in hopes of influencing the panel that will recommend how the province should address the issue.

In one corner, the “Energy Citizens,” a group created by the Canadian Association Petroleum Producers of people who, according to the group’s website, “play a role in spreading the word about the positive role energy plays in our lives every day.”

In the other, Greenpeace’s newly launched “Get Fresh” campaign, which says “The Government of Alberta is creating a fresh plan to address climate change in Alberta and needs to hear your voice!”

Both groups are urging as many of its supporters as possible to fill out an online survey the province hopes will offer insight into what average Albertans think.

Both sides want its members to turn out in numbers to government town hall and public input sessions.

Both groups are tweeting and Facebook-posting like crazy. And it’s never been easier to sign up for regular email updates from your chosen side.

“We are trying to get our members and the general public engaged in the consultation process,” Greenpeace spokesman Mike Hudema wrote in an email.

“This is a way for people to learn more, this is a way for people to do more and to speak up and have their voice heard,” said Jeff Gaulin of the petroleum association.

In the middle, heading the government’s panel and tasked with listening to both partisans and public, sits Andrew Leach.

“One part of our mandate was to provide an opportunity for Albertans to be heard,” he said. “That’s not the same as getting a statistically representative sample of what the population of Alberta wants.”

The Energy Citizens were created in 2014, inspired by an American Petroleum Institute program in the United States.

“Canada’s Energy Citizens brings like-minded Canadians together by building an online community that supports Canada’s energy,” its website says. “If energy issues get you talking, becoming an Energy Citizen means you will always be equipped with factual information to share with your friends and family.”

It offers badges boasting “I (heart) Canada’s energy.” It has 7,500 Facebook likes.

Greenpeace has its own Get Fresh Facebook page, loaded with links to stories about such topics as renewable energy or Greenpeace-approved happenings like the Calgary Farmer’s Market. Just a couple of days old, it has 104 likes.

“The initial push is to try to get people to go to the forums and then to fill out the survey,” Hudema said.

Early indications suggest the consultations are drawing interest. More than 400 people turned out Tuesday night in Calgary, said Leach. Many were what he called “the usual suspects” — technical experts or those with a long-standing interest in the issue.

“If you said, ’Who are my go-to people for information on a particular area within greenhouse gas policy?’, a lot of them were in the room last night.”

Partisans of all sides were present, he said.

“That’s a challenge in any type of process like this. You’re getting a selective sample of those who are mobilized for one reason or another. You have to know that going in.”

It’s still worth doing, said Leach.

“People would wait in line quite a long time to talk to a panel member — just to say ’Thank you for doing this.’ People from both perspectives.”

A second meeting was scheduled for Wednesday night in Edmonton.

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