Alberta: name that slogan!

By Meagan Meiklejohn

The Alberta Advantage, a slogan that once cast Alberta as an attractive province to live, accentuating its “low taxes, no debt and other fiscal milestones,” is apparently due for a makeover. The slogan defined Alberta for 15 years, but Roxanna Benoit, executive director of Alberta’s public affairs bureau, believes that a new slogan portraying an environmentally friendly oilsands will better draw attention to Alberta’s evolved identity. Describing Alberta as having “[a] can-do attitude, dynamic people, diversity, culture and future directions,” Benoit trusts that shifting the focus of Alberta’s image from sketchy environmental practices to its inviting citizens and their stories will naturally cast the province in a brighter light. However, cleaning up appearances does not clean up the environment.

In this month’s seminal government document, “Responsible Actions: A Plan for Alberta’s Oilsands,” a balance between developing the oilsands with “environmental protection, social responsibility and economic success” is discussed. Unfortunately, Alberta’s rebranding does not promote this. Alberta’s new slogan, a project that will consume $25 million in three costly years, is a task solely targeting Alberta’s appearance, not the promotion of green oilsands practices. If the environment is such a concern, then investing the money on exploring options and actually attempting to correct the situation is one way that this money could be better spent.

In regards to such an idea, Edmonton Progressive Conservative MLA Thomas Lukaszuk draws into account the fact that “all oil has a footprint.” Oilsands excavation, most of which is done by open-pit mining, is a dirty process. Of course, basic preservation of the environment is expected and perhaps, with extra funding, these practices could be fine-tuned, but there is no escaping the negative impact on the environment. Whether industries are mining for coal or dissecting the earth for oil, surrounding habitats will always be upset; the deaths of a few hundred ducks and other species are not going to change.

Furthermore, labelling Alberta as having an environmentally conscious oilsands production has no relevance to Alberta’s identity or its “stories.” Alberta’s identity “will be based on people telling their own stories,” Lukaszuk explains, not on the symbolism of a slogan. Why is a definition even necessary? No other province feels the need to promote themselves in such a way as to sum-up their value with a few meaningless words. If Alberta is as diverse as we would like to have others believe, then we cannot possibly expect our province to be described in just one phrase.

Masking the grit and grime of the oilsands with a flashy new name will only magnify environmental issues if corrective measures are not pursued. However, complete cleanliness will not be seen until oilsands mining has been completed– a date no one can yet assign. In the meantime, wasting $25 million on a new slogan that falsely advertises Alberta is as ridiculous as attempting to name the new Doritos flavour, except winning the Doritos contest would put $25,000 in your back pocket.

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