Inquiry into funding of Alberta oil and gas critics granted fourth extension

·2 min read

EDMONTON — Alberta's inquiry into the funding of oil and gas industry critics is getting another deadline extension.

Premier Jason Kenney, saying inquiry head Steve Allan needs more time to complete his report, announced the delay on Facebook on Tuesday night.

"In my time in public service, I can't ever recall a public inquiry that has come in on time," he said during a news conference Wednesday.

"People who dig deep into these issues often need more time."

Kenney did not specify how much more time Allan was given, but Energy Minister Sonya Savage said cabinet approved the extension until July 30.

Allan, a forensic accountant, was tapped in 2019 to lead the inquiry with an initial budget of $2.5 million and a July 2020 deadline.

The deadline was extended last summer, and Allan was given a $1-million budget increase.

Since then, three more extensions have been granted — and officials are blaming the legal efforts of environmental law firm Ecojustice to have the inquiry thrown out.

"No additional funding was requested by the commission, and no increase is being provided," Savage said in an emailed statement Wednesday on the latest extension.

"Our government promised Albertans that we would fully investigate the widely reported foreign-funded campaign to landlock our resources and we are committed to fulfilling that promise."

Last week, a judge dismissed Ecojustice's attempt to quash the United Conservative government's inquiry into whether foreign groups have conspired against Alberta's oil industry.

Court of Queen's Bench Justice Karen Horner said Ecojustice failed to prove the inquiry was called to intimidate charities that have raised concerns about the industry's environmental impact.

She also said the inquiry is within the province’s jurisdiction and there's no reason to believe that the political context around it suggests it's biased.

Kenny said Allan had to spend a lot of time and resources defending his inquiry from the Ecojustice lawsuit.

"The public inquiry was the target of the classic lawfare harassment campaign from green left special interests who receive foreign funding and desperately want to avoid the transparency that the inquiry is designed to bring," he said.

"Their frivolous lawsuit perfectly confirmed why we need that transparency, why we need to shine a spotlight on the foreign source of funds behind the campaign to landlock Canadian energy because that campaign has cost tens of thousands of jobs and economic devastation for so many Alberta families and businesses."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 19, 2021.

Daniela Germano, The Canadian Press