June 20, 2021
Alberta’s $3.5-million public inquiry into alleged foreign-funded anti-energy campaigns is asking 40 organizations to respond to its work, two years after its 2019 launch.
The inquiry is reaching out to about 40 unnamed organizations to respond to its evidence and potential findings. The subjects of the inquiry are expected to keep the materials that pertain to each of them confidential until they become part of the public record.
The organizations have until July 16 to submit responses to the inquiry, headed by commissioner Steve Allan.
The inquiry, struck by the UCP government in July, 2019, has been granted extensions four times, with the latest deadline now set for July 30. It’s final price tag is expected to be $3.5 million -– $1 million more than initially budgeted.
Allan intends to rely on public sources of information such as websites, primarily published by the organizations, public statements by organization officials and public filings with regulatory authorities for his potential findings.
Formal ‘Notices’ sent to individual organizations grants them standing as a ‘Participant for Response,’ which is the second phase of the ‘Inquiry Engagement Process,’ said a news release issued by the inquiry Friday evening.
“I will not make any finding in respect of you until I have had an opportunity to consider and analyze any submissions you make in this process,” Allan said in the Notice of letters.
The United Conservative government has long contended that foreign influences were funding groups opposed to Alberta’s oil and gas industry in an attempt to “landlock” the province by curtailing oilsands development to the benefit of American competitors.
Critics have said the inquiry could amount to a “witch hunt” and attempt to bully environmental groups concerned about the pace and scope of oilsands development.
In May, an Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench judge dismissed an attempt to stop the inquiry, ruling that the environmental law firm Ecojustice failed to prove the inquiry was called to intimidate charities that have raised concerns about the industry’s environmental impact.
Energy Minister Sonya Savage has blamed the legal challenge for wasting time and leading to the latest extension.
The specific direction of the inquiry has also been changed multiple times, with tweaks that broaden who and what the commissioner should look into. It first outlined procedural rules for how organizations could respond to the inquiry in September 2020.
NDP energy critic Kathleen Ganley has called the inquiry “bumbling” and “a farce” that has driven investment out of the province.
In January, the inquiry was criticized for spending nearly $100,000 on reports critics called “textbook examples of climate change denialism,” including one which argues that the effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions will create a dystopia ruled by restrictions akin to COVID-19 lockdowns.