Environmental law group seeks to stop inquiry into who funds oil critics

Environmental law group seeks to stop inquiry into who funds oil critics

CALGARY — An environmental law group wants a court to suspend the Alberta government’s inquiry into oil and gas industry critics until there’s a decision on whether it’s legal.

The United Conservative government contends foreign interests are bankrolling environmental opposition to Canadian fossil-fuel projects.

In June 2019, It appointed forensic accountant Steve Allan to head a public inquiry.

Ecojustice filed a lawsuit last November that alleged the inquiry is politically motivated, biased and outside provincial jurisdiction.

A hearing that had been scheduled for April was delayed indefinitely because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

In the meantime, the group is seeking an injunction in Court of Queen’s Bench that would force Allan to halt his work until there is a ruling in the lawsuit.

Allan’s report was due July 2, but the government recently extended his deadline by four months and added $1 million to the inquiry’s $2.5-million budget.

“They’re running this process in secret. They’ve added another million dollars. We believe it’s for a predetermined outcome,” Ecojustice executive director Devon Page said in an interview Monday.

“We really were left with no choice, particularly given the court delays as a result of COVID, but to bring an injunction application.”

He said the inquiry has already done harm to environmental charities by distracting them from their missions and forcing them to direct resources toward defending themselves.

“What they want to do is kind of tar and feather the environmental charities,” Page said of the United Conservative government.

“Environmental charities in Canada make their revenue from donations, the vast majority of which come from Canadians. So if Kenney could blacken their reputations, he could harm their ability to do what they do.”

Kavi Bal, a spokesman for Energy Minister Sonya Savage, said: “Ecojustice has made it clear that they oppose an inquiry into well-funded foreign campaigns that seek to discredit Alberta and its energy sector.”

The Alberta government is ”committed to protecting Canada’s largest economic subsector from attack by foreign opposition, and we will see this inquiry through to it’s completion,” he added.

Page said despite pandemic-related delays in the courts, he’s hopeful the injunction request will be considered “in a matter of weeks.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 27, 2020

Lauren Krugel, The Canadian Press

crude oil

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

The Lacombe Food Bank is still seeking donations for non-perishable items. (Alannah Page/Lacombe Express)
Fraserway RV donates $20,000 to Lacombe Food Bank

Fraserway RV is Canada’s largest RV dealership and has stores across the country including one in Lacombe.

JJ Collett Natural Area Foundation held its AGM on Oct. 19 at the Ponoka Legion. (Emily Jaycox/Ponoka News)
De-listing Alberta parks creates ‘risk’ for coal mining: CPAWS

Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society speaks at JJ Collett AGM

The City of Lacombe hired the consulting company, Moorhouse and Associates, to carry out research for phase one of the Social Master Plan. The plan will help the city to learn what areas need the most support. (Alannah Page/Lacombe Express)
City of Lacombe announces first-ever Social Master Plan

The plan aims to discover what services need the City’s attention over the next five years

On This Spot was first created in Vancouver, B.C. after co-founder Andrew Farris started a blog with the same concept during his travels abroad. Photo courtesy On This Spot.
On This Spot app launches in Lacombe and surrounding municipalities

The app shows residents what the historic city looked like hundreds of years ago

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney arrives for an announcement at a news conference in Calgary, Alta., Tuesday, Sept. 15, 2020.	Kenney is isolating at home after one of his ministers tested positive for COVID-19. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Todd Korol
Alberta premier tests negative for COVID-19 but will isolate for a week

Kenney said he will isolate until Oct. 29 and, in the meantime, work from home

COVID-19. (Image courtesy CDC)
Temporary COVID-19 testing sites coming to Wetaskiwin and Ponoka

The Wetaskiwin location will open Oct. 23, 2020 and the Ponoka location will open Oct. 29.

ACC President and CEO Ken Kobly spoke to Ponoka Chamber of Commerce members over Zoom on Oct. 20. (Image: screenshot)
Alberta chambers are ‘411’ to members, government: ACC president

Changes to government supports, second wave and snap election

Smartphone showing various applications to social media services and Google. (Pixabay photo)
National media calling for level playing field with Google, Facebook

In Canada, Google and Facebook control 80 per cent of all online advertising revenues

RCMP. (Black Press File Photo)
Calgary man dies in two-vehicle collision near Sylvan Lake

A semi truck collided with a SUV just east of Hwy. 781 on Hwy 11.

RCMP. (Phil McLachlan - Black Press Media)
British Columbia man dies during ski trip near glacier west of Calgary

Kananaskis Public Safety and Alpine Helicopters responded around 2:30 p.m.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau arrives on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Monday, Oct. 19, 2020, following a week-long break for the House of Commons. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
One crisis after another for Trudeau since last federal election one year ago

It has been a year of unprecedented calamity and crisis

Alberta's provincial flag flies on a flag pole in Ottawa, Monday, July 6, 2020. Advisers are reportedly recommending Alberta's kindergarten to Grade 4 arts and social studies curriculum remove all references to residential schools because it's "too sad" for young children. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Advisers suggest Alberta students not learn about residential schools before Grade 4

Documents suggest children younger than Grade 4 are too emotionally vulnerable to learn about residential schools

Most Read