Alberta inquiry into oil and gas foes could face legal challenge from Ecojustice

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney has repeatedly accused U.S. charities of bankrolling efforts

Alberta inquiry into oil and gas foes could face legal challenge from Ecojustice

An environmental law group is threatening legal action if the Alberta government’s inquiry into foreign funding of oil and gas industry foes continues as is.

Vancouver-based Ecojustice has given inquiry commissioner Steve Allan 30 days to respond to a letter detailing its concerns and proposing ways to address some of them.

“It is Ecojustice’s submission that the inquiry is ill-conceived, promulgated for purely political purposes and does not meet the test of expediency or being in the public interest,” lawyers Barry Robinson and Kurt Stilwell write in the letter dated Tuesday.

The $2.5-million inquiry in its current form is “unlawful and potentially unconstitutional,” they argue.

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney, often citing the work of Vancouver writer Vivian Krause, has repeatedly accused U.S. charities of bankrolling efforts to block Canadian energy in a concerted “campaign of lies and defamation.”

The inquiry is one plank of the United Conservative government’s strategy to fight back against critics of Alberta’s oil and gas industry, which has struggled to get its product to markets as new pipelines are mired in delays.

Ecojustice says in the letter there’s a reasonable apprehension that the inquiry will be biased against the groups it’s investigating. It says Kenney’s public comments — as well as the wording of the inquiry’s terms of reference — prejudge the outcome and label environmental campaigns as “anti-Alberta.”

The group also says the inquiry risks violating rights to freedom of expression and association protected under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Ecojustice adds that the inquiry must be procedurally fair, meaning anyone called before it must be able to cross-examine witnesses and receive copies of documents submitted as evidence, among other things.

It’s proposing amendments to the inquiry’s terms of reference that would fix some of those issues.

The public inquiry is meant to shed a spotlight on the “foreign-funded campaign to landlock Alberta energy,” Kenney said Wednesday.

“Why are these groups so agitated by that? What are they afraid of? What are they trying to hide?” he said during a teleconference call from New York City, where he is promoting Alberta to U.S. investors.

He said he hadn’t read the Ecojustice letter, but added that it sounded like a “regurgitation of the laughable letter from Amnesty International last week,” in which the global human rights group’s Canadian branch said it was “deeply concerned” with Alberta’s fight-back strategy.

“I understand why these groups are hyperventilating. They have been able, for over a decade, to engage in a systematic campaign to defame Alberta’s responsible energy production without transparency, without any pushback. The sort of letters we’re getting now … confirm that we are on exactly the right track.”

Kenney’s press secretary later sent media a link to Ecojustice’s tax returns filed with the Canada Revenue Agency in which it discloses how much of its revenue comes from foreign sources. Last year, it received just over $1 million from outside Canada — about 14 per cent of its total annual revenue during the period.

Allan, the commissioner, is a forensic and restructuring accountant with more than 40 years of experience. His ability to compel witness testimony and records is limited to Alberta, but Justice Minister Doug Schweitzer has said much of the information Allan needs is publicly available. He’ll be able to travel outside Alberta to gather more.

The inquiry’s first phase is to focus on fact-finding. Public hearings are to follow if necessary. Allan is to deliver his final report to the government next summer.

— With files from Dean Bennett in Edmonton

Lauren Krugel, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

The Government of Alberta identified 115 new COVID-19 cases Sunday, bringing the provincial total to 3,089.
(Black Press file photo)
Alberta reports 100 new cases of COVID-19

The Central zone sits at 218 active cases

The Government of Alberta identified 115 new COVID-19 cases Sunday, bringing the provincial total to 3,089.
(Black Press file photo)
Red Deer drops to 71 active cases of COVID-19

Province adds 127 new cases of the virus

Police officers and their dogs undergo training at the RCMP Police Dog Services training centre in Innisfail, Alta., on Wednesday, July 15, 2015. Mounties say they are searching for an armed and dangerous man near a provincial park in northern Alberta who is believed to have shot and killed a service dog during a police chase. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
RCMP search for armed man in northern Alberta after police dog shot and killed

Cpl. Deanna Fontaine says a police service dog named Jago was shot during the pursuit

Alberta now has 2,336 active cases of COVID-19, with 237 people in hospital, including 58 in intensive care. (Black Press file photo)
Red Deer down to 73 active cases of COVID-19, lowest since early November

The Central zone has 253 active cases of the virus

Marco Mendicino, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship during a press conference in Ottawa on Thursday, May 13, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Canada to welcome 45,000 refugees this year, says immigration minister

Canada plans to increase persons admitted from 23,500 to 45,000 and expedite permanent residency applications

FILE – Most lanes remain closed at the Peace Arch border crossing into the U.S. from Canada, where the shared border has been closed for nonessential travel in an effort to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, Thursday, May 7, 2020, in Blaine, Wash. The restrictions at the border took effect March 21, while allowing trade and other travel deemed essential to continue. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)
Feds to issue update on border measures for fully vaccinated Canadians, permanent residents

Border with U.S. to remain closed to most until at least July 21

Blair Lebsack, owner of RGE RD restaurant, poses for a portrait in the dining room, in Edmonton, Friday, June 18, 2021. Canadian restaurants are having to find ways to deal with the rising cost of food. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Canadian restaurateurs grapple with rising food costs, menu prices expected to rise

Restaurants are a low margin industry, so there’s not a lot of room to work in additional costs

Orange shirts, shoes, flowers and messages are displayed on the steps outside the legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Tuesday, June 8, 2021 following a ceremony hosted by the Songhees and Esquimalt First Nations in honour of the 215 residential school children whose remains have been discovered buried near the facility in Kamloops, B.C. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Alberta city cancels Canada Day fireworks at site of former residential school

City of St. Albert says that the are where the display was planned, is the site of the former Youville Residential School

Barbara Violo, pharmacist and owner of The Junction Chemist Pharmacy, draws up a dose behind vials of both Pfizer-BioNTech and Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines on the counter, in Toronto, Friday, June 18, 2021. An independent vaccine tracker website founded by a University of Saskatchewan student says just over 20 per cent of eligible Canadians — those 12 years old and above — are now fully vaccinated. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
At least 20% of eligible Canadians fully vaccinated, 75% with one dose: data

Earlier projections for reopening at this milestone didn’t include Delta variant

This undated file photo provided by Ernie Carswell & Partners shows the home featured in the opening and closing scenes of The Brady Bunch in Los Angeles. Do you know the occupation of Mike Brady, the father in this show about a blended family? (Anthony Barcelo/Ernie Carswell & Partners via AP, File)
QUIZ: A celebration of dad on Father’s Day

How much do you know about famous fathers?

A dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine is pictured at a vaccination site in Vancouver Thursday, March 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
NACI advice to mix vaccines gets varied reaction from AstraZeneca double-dosers

NACI recommends an mRNA vaccine for all Canadians receiving a second dose of a COVID-19 vaccine

Bruce Springsteen performs at the 13th annual Stand Up For Heroes benefit concert in support of the Bob Woodruff Foundation in New York on Nov. 4, 2019. (Greg Allen/Invision/AP)
Canadians who got AstraZeneca shot can now see ‘Springsteen on Broadway’

B.C. mayor David Screech who received his second AstraZeneca dose last week can now attend the show

Most Read