Greenpeace lampoons Harper government for ads that greenwash tar sands

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Actor Peter Keleghan plays Peter Kent in Greenpeace's new greenwash ads.
Actor Peter Keleghan plays Peter Kent in Greenpeace’s new greenwash ads.

TorontoGreenpeace Canada has launched a satirical television ad campaign aimed at debunking the Harper government’s campaign to “greenwash” the tar sands.

The 30-second ad stars comedic actor Peter Keleghan, known for his work on 18 to Life and The Red Green Show, as Environment Minister Peter Kent. In the ad, he complains that “being the kind of environment minister who makes big oil companies clean up their mess isn’t easy – but buying ads is!”

At issue are the federal government’s “Responsible Resource Development” ads, which depict the tar sands industry as environmentally friendly. First aired in 2012, Ottawa will spend $16 million in tax dollars this year to keep the ads running on television.

Greenpeace will promote the ad on social media before it airs the week of July 8 on CBC’s George Stroumboulopoulos Tonight. The organization is appealing to viewers to sign a petition aimed at Prime Minister Harper as well as contribute a donation to run the ad more widely.

“This project gave me the opportunity to help Greenpeace make an important statement on how the federal government is spending our money to promote the oil industry,” said Keleghan. “It richly deserves being lampooned.”

In addition to the television spot, Greenpeace made two longer skits featuring Sheila McCarthy and Richard Blackburn, who respectively play a sly assistant and exuberant Harper.

All three videos, available at www.stopgreenwash.ca, were directed by Michael Kennedy, whose work includes the hit sitcom Little Mosque on the Prairie. Kennedy said he jumped at the chance to direct the videos: “Serious issues deserve serious attention, but sometimes humour works best when you’re trying to reach people.”

“There is no throne so high that it can’t be shaken by laughter from beneath,” echoed Greenpeace Climate and Energy Coordinator Keith Stewart. “Let’s laugh those government ads off the air!”

Keleghan, who has shown his comedic talents in episodes of Seinfeld and Cheers as well as in starring roles in The Newsroom and Billable Hours, previously appeared as Minister Kent in Greenpeace’s “Polluter Harmony” video two years ago.

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