Public inquiry into anti-Alberta energy campaigns granted another deadline extension

·3 min read
The review, led by inquiry commissioner Steve Allan, has blown past several deadlines and has gone over budget. (CBC - image credit)
The review, led by inquiry commissioner Steve Allan, has blown past several deadlines and has gone over budget. (CBC - image credit)

A government inquiry into whether foreign groups have conspired against Alberta's oil and gas industry has been granted another deadline extension.

The delay, revealed by Premier Jason Kenney during a Facebook live forum on Tuesday night, is the latest complication surrounding the controversial investigation into alleged "foreign-funded special interests" accused of spreading misinformation about the province's energy industry.

The public inquiry — being led by Calgary-based forensic accountant Steve Allan — has blown past several deadlines and has gone over budget. It has been the target of an attempt to have it quashed in court.

The inquiry's final report, already delayed, was due to be delivered to the Energy Minister Sonya Savage on May 31. In a statement to CBC News on Wednesday, Savage said the report is now expected by the end of July, a year behind schedule.

The province must make the report public within three months of receiving it.

'A bit more time'

The inquiry was ordered by the Kenney government to fulfil a campaign promise. Kenney has said that Canadian environmental charities that accept U.S. funding are part of a foreign-funded defamation campaign aimed at halting development in Alberta's oilsands.

Allan was tapped in 2019 to lead the inquiry. The review had an initial budget of $2.5 million and a July 2020 deadline.

Last summer, Allan was given a four-month extension and a $1 million budget increase.

In October, the inquiry got another 90-day extension, and in January the deadline was extended again to the end of this month.

Kenney said a court injunction that tried to have the review quashed caused the latest delay.

He said Allan had to dedicate his time to responding to the case in court, defending the review against allegations made by the group Ecojustice.

"The investigation is proceeding," Kenney said Tuesday. "Commissioner Allan had to spend a lot of time and a fair bit of resources defending his inquiry from those efforts.

"And so he's asked for a bit more time as he pivots back to the completion of the actual report, and we've granted him that time."

Ecojustice filed a judicial review application in November 2019. The environmental charity contended the inquiry was created for partisan political purposes, was tainted by bias from the outset, and was outside Alberta's legal jurisdiction.

Last week, Court of Queen's Bench Justice Karen Horner dismissed the injunction, ruling that the environmental law firm had failed to prove its case.

'Time wasted'

During his public forum, Kenney applauded the court's decision.

"There was a big effort by the green left lobby to shut down the inquiry because I guess they don't like the sunshine of transparency on where they're getting their money from, or what they are doing to try to hammer jobs and the economy in Alberta," Kenney said Tuesday

"The Queen's Bench court in Alberta rejected, completely, that frivolous effort."

Savage said no additional funding was requested and no budget increase is being provided.

"Due to the time wasted by the obstructive legal efforts of Ecojustice, which were ultimately unsuccessful, cabinet has approved a short extension until July 30 for the commissioner to complete his important work," Savage said Wednesday in a statement to CBC News.

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

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