A former conservative MLA who sat on the province's fair deal panel says the commissioner of the public inquiry into anti-Alberta energy campaigns regrets getting involved in the project, which has been beset by delays, cost overruns and controversy.
Donna Kennedy-Glans told CBC's West of Centre podcast that she's talked with Steve Allan about the inquiry — which, earlier this week, had its deadline extended for the fourth time — and believes he's unhappy with how the whole process has unfolded.
"I actually talked to Steve Allan about why another extension," Kennedy-Glans said.
"It's almost like it's become a negotiation between Steve and the team that supports him and the minister of energy. And it's like no one's really clear or happy about what the outcome is supposed to be."
"I actually recommended to Steve three extensions ago that he just stop it," she added.
"Did you get the sense that he was regretting even signing on to this?" podcast host Kathleen Petty asked.
"Oh, unequivocally, yes," Kennedy-Glans replied.
Allan, a forensic accountant, was tapped in 2019 to lead the inquiry, which had an initial budget of $2.5 million and a deadline of July 2020.
The budget was later expanded to $3.5 million and the deadline repeatedly extended.
On Wednesday, Energy Minister Sonya Savage said the report is now expected to be submitted to the provincial government by the end of July 2021, a full year behind the original schedule.
The province must make the report public within three months of receiving it.
Lack of focus
Kennedy-Glans described Allan as a "very credible man" whom she's known for a long time but said the public inquiry is fundamentally flawed because it lacks a clear focus.
The terms of reference for the inquiry originally said "the commissioner shall inquire into anti-Alberta energy campaigns that are supported, in whole or in part, by foreign organizations."
The terms were later tweaked, with the addition of two words: "if any."
"It's a project that has so extensive a reach, you could research those questions for the rest of your life and not have all the answers," Kennedy-Glans said.
"It's kind of become Frankenstein. And it's a problem. And it's never-ending."
Listen to the full West of Centre podcast here:
Through a spokesperson, Allan declined to comment.
"Commissioner Steve Allan is not able to comment on opinions expressed in public affairs programs," Alan Boras told CBC News in an email.
"It is important to note that Commissioner Steve Allan and the inquiry team are working diligently to complete the engagement process and submit the final report to the Government of Alberta."
Kennedy-Glans said Allan asked her at one point for input on the inquiry, and she declined.
"He asked me to look at it and I said, 'I wouldn't touch that with a 10-foot pole, frankly, Steve.'"
"It does need to end," she added. "I feel badly for all the work that's gone into it. It doesn't make any sense."