CALGARY/TERRITORIES OF THE BLACKFOOT AND PEOPLES OF TREATY 7, HOME TO MÉTIS NATION OF ALBERTA, REGION III – Ecojustice says the report on Jason Kenney’s controversial public inquiry into “anti-Alberta” activities, which was finally released today after a two-year delay, was a colossal waste of time and money and sets a bad precedent for public inquiries in Canada.
The public inquiry was a campaign promise of Premier Kenney in the lead up to the 2019 Election. Ecojustice, Canada’s largest environmental law charity, challenged the inquiry in court on the basis that the circumstance and terms of reference demonstrate that the inquiry was biased and the outcome, predetermined.
Ecojustice also raised concerns that the process was procedurally unfair, in that Commissioner Allan never held public hearings, never granted access to the full record of the Inquiry, never gave an opportunity to cross examine witnesses, and never conducted interviews with the targets of the inquiry.
Ecojustice believes that its legal challenge, although ultimately unsuccessful, had the desired effect of alerting the public to the flaws in the Inquiry process.
As a result, the report concludes that neither Ecojustice nor other environmental organizations that campaigned against rampant oil and gas development in Alberta acted unlawfully or improperly, including in accepting donations from outside Canada to support their work.
Despite the four deadline extensions and the $3.5 million cost to taxpayers, all the information cited in the document appears to have resulted from web searches and can easily be found on Ecojustice’s website and in public communications and documents.
Devon Page, Executive Director at Ecojustice, said:
“The report only confirms what we have said from the beginning: the inquiry was a witch hunt launched solely to intimidate people and organizations who – in response to the threats the climate crisis poses to our health, environment, and economy – are standing up to rampant development of Alberta’s oil and gas resources.
”In the two years that this inquiry has dragged on, the real impacts of the climate emergency on Canadians, the environment, and our economy have only become clearer. In the face of wildfires, water restrictions, drought and crop failure, Albertans understand that there is nothing ‘timely, economic, efficient and responsible’ about unbridled Alberta oil and gas development.
“Ecojustice chooses its legal work based on its mission to use the law to protect Canada’s environment and not because some funder dangled money in front of us. We have always been open and transparent about where our funding comes from – unlike the Alberta government which continues to refuse to fully disclose the role foreign funding plays in Alberta’s oil patch.
“The ‘findings and evidence’ compiled in the report amount to a very expensive Google search – it could have been the summer job of an Albertan teenager. Albertans should be asking why a report based on online searches took so long and ended up costing taxpayers millions of dollars. “
- The Alberta government launched its public inquiry in July 2019.
- Ecojustice announced its legal challenge of the inquiry four months later, in November 2019.
- The deadline for the inquiry’s final report was extended four times to July 30, 2021.
- The province also increased the budget for the inquiry by $1M. The total cost to taxpayers now sits at $3.5M.
- In addition to needing an extended timeline and additional funding, the inquiry has been plagued with criticism, including in Commissioner Alan’s decision to spend more than a hundred thousand dollars commissioning reports from noted industry-friendly climate denialists and conspiracy theorists.
- In November 2019, Ecojustice discovered that inquiry Commissioner Steve Allen had made donations to the UCP party, raising questions of bias in the inquiry process.
- In March 2020, Ecojustice sent a letter to the commissioner highlighting secrecy in the inquiry process and urging more transparency.
- In January 2021, Ecojustice issued a statement condemning Allen’s decision to use Alberta taxpayer dollars to commission reports containing climate change denialism and skepticism.
- In February 2021, Ecojustice went to court to challenge the public inquiry into “anti-Alberta” energy campaigns. Ecojustice asked that the inquiry be quashed on the grounds that it was unlawful, biased, and an unfair use of government power.
- In May 2021, the Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench allowed the inquiry to proceed. The final report was to be delivered on May 31.
- After four deadline extensions, the report was finally released on October 21, 2021.
Ecojustice uses the power of the law to defend nature, combat climate change, and fight for a healthy environment. Its strategic, public interest lawsuits and advocacy lead to precedent-setting court decisions and law and policy that deliver lasting solutions to Canada’s most urgent environmental problems. As Canada’s largest environmental law charity, Ecojustice operates offices in Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto, Ottawa, and Halifax.