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Alberta Government

Blowback: Smith’s $8 Million Ad Campaign Has Sparked More Satire Than Solutions

Alberta's “Tell the Feds” campaign became the butt of jokes, proving that in the world of public opinion, you're only one parody away from becoming a meme

You’ve probably seen the ads on TV, heard the ads on the radio, or seen the giant billboards last fall.

Danielle Smith and her UCP government spent $8 million on a “Tell the Feds” campaign to promote the notion that the federal government’s draft Clean Electricity Regulations (CER) will leave Albertans and other Canadians “freezing in the dark.”

With a bit of fear-mongering and statements like, “No one wants to freeze in the dark.” or “The things that Canadians count on won’t work when needed,” the UCP government went all out with its ads in Alberta, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Ontario. 

In essence, Smith believes that Ottawa’s idea to transition to clean energy by 2035 is impossible.

So she was trying to get people across Canada so outraged they “Tell the Feds” that we should delay the transition until 2050 instead. 

Critics saw Smith’s ad campaign as catering to Big Oil and rejecting the swift transition to clean energy.

In response, many organizations fact-checked the government’s claims and found most to be false, with many critics calling the campaign ‘propaganda.’ 

The campaign was launched on September 28, 2023, but Danielle Smith’s “Tell the Feds” website was shut down only a few months later.

So Danielle, are we no longer supposed to “Tell the Feds?”

Part of where our 8 million dollars went | Alberta Government
Part of where our 8 million dollars went | Alberta Government

Backlash

Beyond a calling out from experts on the inaccuracies and style of Smith’s message, the “Tell the Feds” campaign produced numerous spin-off campaigns from other organizations that disputed Smith’s claims.

The Conservation Council of New Brunswick countered with their own website, “Tell the Facts,” where they “set the record straight on the clean electricity regulations.”

In essence, they make a case for renewables and transitioning “Canada’s electricity grid to carbon-neutral emissions by 2035” by presenting various FAQs countering Alberta’s claims.

The “Tell the Facts” website landing page | Conservation Council of New Brunswick
The “Tell the Facts” website landing page | Conservation Council of New Brunswick

Backlash and Parody

The environmental organization 350.org also set up a dedicated website called “Show the Feds.”  Their campaign was launched to coincide with the 2023 UN Climate Change Conference (COP28), where Premier Smith was presenting Alberta’s ‘green’ environmental strategies.

Show the Feds served as a rebuttal to Premier Smith’s portrayal of Alberta as a proactive entity in climate efforts, which 350.org views as disingenuous given the province’s ongoing support for fossil fuel industries.

Show the Feds” parodies Alberta’s campaign in both design and content but with a crucial difference: it uses “factual information” to advocate for renewable energy solutions. 

The timing of the campaign’s launch was linked to Alberta receiving the “Fossil of the Day” award at COP28, a satirical recognition given to entities that notably obstruct climate negotiation progress. 

This was one of the rare instances where the award was bestowed upon a subnational government, further emphasizing the critical view of Alberta’s climate policies.

Albertans like being number one, but being the world’s leading climate obstructor isn’t really not an honour worth bragging about.

Two of the slogans used by 350.org to parody Alberta’s “Tell the Feds” campaign | 350.org
Two of the slogans used by 350.org to parody Alberta’s “Tell the Feds” campaign | 350.org

Just Plain Parody

During the height of the “Tell the Feds” campaign in October and November of 2023, the Jack 96.9 FM radio station in Calgary had a lot of fun with goofy slogans that Albertans could send to the Feds.

They even started a dedicated website, tellthefeds.org, to help spread suggestions of things Albertans could “Tell the Feds,” such as:

  • I want a four-day work week – Tell the Feds!
  • The engine light is still on in my jeep – Tell the Feds!
  • I no longer want to obey the laws of gravity – Tell the Feds!
  • I don’t want to have a name – Tell the Feds!
  • I want a million dollars and a hug – Tell the Feds!

The Latest Spoof

And just this past month, new mini-billboards have been popping up around Calgary and Edmonton. 

We’re not exactly sure who is responsible for the tongue-in-cheek ads, but they are getting a lot of attention on social media.

It sure would be interesting to hear just what Albertans are currently “telling the feds.

Inquiring minds want to know.

Janessa Evans | X
Janessa Evans | X

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