Allan inquiry analysis finds less than 5 per cent of foreign green funds targeted Alberta oilsands

·4 min read
Steve Allan, who is heading Alberta’s public inquiry into allegations of foreign-funded reputational attacks on the province’s oil and gas industry, granted a sole-source contract for legal advice to inquiry to a law firm in which his son is a partner.  (Evelyne Asselin/CBC - image credit)
Steve Allan, who is heading Alberta’s public inquiry into allegations of foreign-funded reputational attacks on the province’s oil and gas industry, granted a sole-source contract for legal advice to inquiry to a law firm in which his son is a partner. (Evelyne Asselin/CBC - image credit)

Draft reports of an inquiry into foreign funding of alleged anti-Alberta energy activities show just a fraction of money flowing to Canadian environmental initiatives during the last 20 years was targeted at halting the extraction and transport of Alberta oil.

Copies of draft reports penned by commissioner Steve Allan and forensic accounting performed by Deloitte, both of which were obtained by CBC News, say Deloitte found $1.28 billion came from outside the country to fund environmental initiatives between January 2000 and October 2020.

Deloitte found that between $38 million and $59 million could be tied to anti-Alberta energy campaigns over two decades, or about 2.9 to 4.6 per cent of the money. The report says much of it stayed in the hands of American entities.

After two years of work, four deadline extensions and a rash of skepticism from critics, Allan submitted his 600-page final report Friday afternoon to Energy Minister Sonya Savage.

"I believe Albertans will gain a new understanding of how foreign funding has played an influential role in public policy and political discourse," Allan said in a news release. "It is up to Albertans alone to determine how they wish to see their public policy and political will realized, unfettered by the influence of foreign moneys."

The inquiry was an election promise by Premier Jason Kenney, who was intrigued by independent research done by Vancouver blogger Vivian Krause. Krause spent more than a decade combing through tax filings and public reports, convinced environmentalists are trying to landlock Canadian oil products.

Since 2019, the inquiry's budget jumped to $3.5 million from $2.5 million. There were no public hearings. Some organizations that had been waiting to be questioned by the commissioner were given just a couple of weeks to review and respond to hundreds of pages of material.

To keep costs down and the timeline shorter, Allan said he opted for a "hearings by correspondence" process.

People and organizations in the inquiry's crosshairs have labelled it a witch hunt that has given credence to conspiracy theories.

Foreign funding likely underestimated, inquirer says

Savage has 90 days to release the report publicly.

"Albertans believe in democracy, and we expect that decisions about our economy and the development of our natural resources must rest with Albertans and not well-funded foreign special interest groups," she said in a Friday news release.

CBC has not seen the final report.

The draft report, which an inquiry spokesperson says is a portion of the final report, says tallies of foreign money flowing to environmental organizations are likely underestimates. The commissioner cites limitations on how much information is made publicly available.

The documents say Deloitte identified more than 200 foundations, environmental non-government organizations (ENGOs), environmental legal firms and other groups that participated in funding or organizing opposition to Alberta oil and gas.

The commissioner also said that participation doesn't constitute misconduct and shouldn't "be viewed as impugnable in any way."

Allan also said he cannot rule out that more from U.S. foundations didn't fund campaigns against Alberta oil — a statement some ENGOs have said jumps to unwarranted conclusions.

He says there was co-ordination to frustrate the development and export of Alberta oil products at two levels — among well-endowed foundations, and between ENGOs. He lists 14 foundations, 12 ENGOs and three legal firms he said are involved.

Many of these groups have said publicly they reject any characterization of their actions as counter to Alberta's interests. Some have threatened court action once the final report is released.

The New York-based Rockefeller Brothers Fund, which has often been a target of the premier's comments, said in an email this week the commissioner reached "misleading conclusions" about its support for reducing reliance on carbon-intensive energy sources.

Vivian Krause/Facebook
Vivian Krause/Facebook

B.C. researcher says she'll be paid for inquiry work

Krause, whose research prompted the inquiry, said last week she is anxious to see Allan's findings.

"I feel like it's going to be report card day for me, you know, on 10 years of work," she said.

The Deloitte report used Krause's research as a starting point, the documents say. Krause said she took multiple trips to Calgary during the inquiry, delivering USB sticks full of data and enough binders to fill a wheelbarrow.

In 2019, she estimates she spent 900 hours of her own time compiling spreadsheets for the inquiry.

Krause said the inquiry has agreed to pay her $30,000, and cover some travel expenses. An inquiry spokesperson wouldn't confirm this, and said a full account of expenses would be released along with the final report.

Krause said she wants clarity on whether the reputation of Alberta oil products has been unfairly tarnished.

"I'm Canadian, and I'm grateful that the wealth of Alberta, whether they liked it or not, has been shared with our whole country," she said. "It moves me to tears."

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