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Alberta Premier Jason Kenney speaks at a press conference in Calgary on Sept. 15, 2020.Todd Korol/The Canadian Press

It may be some time before we again hear a Canadian premier bragging about the fact his province was highlighted in a British tabloid for its attack on an animated children’s movie about a family of mythical creatures.

But when you’re Alberta’s Jason Kenney, you take these “wins” when you get them.

This week, Mr. Kenney defended a decision by his “war room” – otherwise known as the Canadian Energy Centre – to launch a campaign against the Netflix film Bigfoot Family. As part of its mandate to combat misinformation about Alberta’s oil sands, the war room decided the movie’s narrative amounted to propaganda against the oil and gas industry.

The movie follows Dr. Jim “Bigfoot” Harrison, a genetically mutated sasquatch, as he joins a fight to stop an oil company from exploiting an Alaskan wildlife preserve for its crude riches. It deploys all the plot devices you might expect from a film aimed at kids: People are pushed over cliffs (but survive), cuddly bears are tranquilized (but are okay), and big, bad oil workers preside over their drilling site like well-armed warlords. Everything is aggrandized.

But where one might see children’s entertainment with an environmental conscience, Mr. Kenney sees a film containing “outrageous lies” and “defamation” that portrays the oil industry as a sort of “mafia” intent on “conspiring to murder people, including kids.”

Needless to say, all of the attention helped make Bigfoot Family one of Netflix’s most popular movies in Canada over the past few days. Can you say “backfire”?

Mr. Kenney said the fact British tabloid The Sun (with its reported circulation of about 1.2 million) picked the story up amounts to a “massive success” for Alberta. NDP Leader Rachel Notley suggested people were laughing at the province, not lining up behind it in support.

It’s a silly story, of course – one that will become a political footnote in no time at all. But there is also something telling about it. What political leader takes centre stage to attack a kids’ movie about a make-believe family of sasquatches fighting Big Oil? And what does that say about said leader’s current political standing?

Either it’s just a distraction, or Mr. Kenney is more desperate than we imagined.

Yes, Alberta is still a couple of years out from an election, but recent polling for the Premier and his United Conservative Party is not good. Depending on the survey, he’s either in a statistical dead heat with Ms. Notley’s NDP, five to six points behind or trailing by numbers that would signal a landslide for the New Democrats if the election were held today.

The last several months (years?) have held little but bad news for the province. And Mr. Kenney has not helped the grim mood with a series of missteps that defy his experience and political pedigree. The list of own goals by both the Premier and his government is truly mind-boggling.

There isn’t a seasoned political observer in Alberta who could have imagined that a politician so revered after his long stint in Ottawa – someone who singlehandedly remade Alberta politics and had anyone of a conservative bent in the province worshipping at his feet – would, less than two years after his election, be facing an approval rating of 39 per cent and an internal caucus rebellion. Mr. Kenney recently acceded to calls for a leadership review, but it will take place six months before the next election, all but assuring he will survive it.

The Premier has become the one thing no leader wants to be: an albatross. He may not yet be the “stinking” one of Peter MacKay’s imagination, but there is little question he and his leadership style have become a problem.

There is nothing on the horizon that offers hope, either. Negotiations with public-sector unions are about to get real ugly. The province will soon have to add up the bills associated with the pandemic and the devastating toll it has wrought. There is no hope that royalties from oil and gas will deliver Alberta from the economic mess it’s in.

A person can look 10 or 15 years down the road and not see light. They might see a sales tax, but they won’t see light.

The plot of Bigfoot Family finds Dr. Harrison held prisoner by evil oil workers, only to be eventually set free by his son and the family’s pet bear. Mr. Kenney can only hope he can be rescued, too – from the unrelenting torrent of bad headlines and a personal tendency to make matters worse.

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