What environmental groups say Alberta’s public inquiry has on their foreign financial influences


A controversial two-year-long investigation into allegations that foreign actors unfairly attempted to tarnish Alberta oil and gas’s international reputation is set to be completed by July 30.

That day, commissioner and forensic accountant Steve Allen’s report will be due to Energy Minister Sonya Savage. He is forced to release his findings publicly within 90 days of receiving it.

In 2019, Allen was initially tapped to report back as of July 2, 2020. They had a $2.5 million budget to investigate any funding submitted by sinister actors to environmental groups, and whether any organizations smack-talk oil to get that money to the government as well. Holds grant or charitable status in Canada.

Environmental groups called the practice a witch hunt, designed to scare away charities who have raised concerns about the oil and gas industry. Environmental law group EcoJustice unsuccessfully tried to get the process quashed by the court.

Throughout the process, the United Conservative Party government granted Allen four deadline extensions and increased his budget to $3.5 million.

About 40 groups designated as participants have now collected information about their financing and alleged activities of Allen.

Many say that Allen has informed them that he has done nothing wrong.

Some say the findings they were asked to answer were a jumble of Google searches and conspiracy theories.

Investigation spokesman Alan Boras says Allen is now reviewing the groups’ responses and incorporating them into his final report, the deadline for which has not changed.

He said Allen is working to complete the report and recommendations in a “balanced, rational, positive and constructive manner that supports a rational and meaningful dialogue of cases prior to investigation.”

However, not all participants responded to Allen’s findings by the July 16 deadline, and he is still accepting answers as he nears his deadline.

As they continue to question the fairness and fairness of the process, some organizations are already preparing to challenge the final report in court.

Who’s Responding and What They Saw: 350.org

Cam Fenton is the Canada team lead for international group 350.org, which says it wants the oil and development to be frozen.

On a private server, the Inquiry shared aggregated information about the organization, its founder, and Fenton himself.

He said in a letter of inquiry that he was not accused of any wrongdoing.

He added that analysis of foreign funding to environmental groups that could potentially be used for campaigns to tarnish the reputation of Alberta oil and gas, for example, to groups working to protect local wetlands in Ontario Casts a pretty wide net for inclusion.

“At best, it’s an attempt to create a smear campaign, and at worst, it’s a huge waste of money creating a more and more embarrassing process, the further and further it goes along,” Fenton he said.

Fenton said he has about 10 business days to review hundreds of pages of content and submit feedback, which is now posted online.

green Peace

Keith Stewart, senior energy strategist at Greenpeace, says a financial analysis by Deloitte Forensics, which was hired by the investigation, shows relatively small amounts of foreign money flowed to organizations for anti-oil operations during the past 16 years. .

Have not independently verified dollar amounts. Stewart says this is far less than the amount raised from Canadian sources for Greenpeace campaigns.

Stewart said the investigation also told Greenpeace that they found no evidence of wrongdoing or illegal activity.

He said the process is not like any other public inquiry, which does not involve any public hearing, affidavits, timely disclosure of evidence or sufficient time to respond.

He said the material excludes scientific and economic evidence about the effects of climate change and instead relied on information published by conservative websites such as the Canadian Energy Center (a Alberta government-funded ‘war room’) and True North.

“If I got it as an undergraduate paper, I would ask them to resubmit or fail,” Stewart said.

In its response, Greenpeace asked the commissioner to remove parts of its report that fuel conspiracy theories, contain misinformation and reach unfounded conclusions that could be defamatory.

dogwood

BC-based organization Dogwood says Allen also said in a letter that he did nothing wrong.

Communications director Kai Nagata said the organization had access to the evidence for about five business days before the July 16 deadline to respond. Much of it was social media screenshots and web links to their campaigns, he said, who stands with the organisation.

He said the investigation appears to acknowledge criticism of the oil and gas industry intended to harm Alberta as a province.

Nagata said posting its response online on Friday allowed Dogwood to raise about $14,000 in a few days, with the possibility of requesting a judicial review of the report.

He said that the wrong and conspiratorial information should be removed from the final report. The information has the potential to inappropriately provoke anger among supporters of the oil industry – with many interviewers saying the anger could lead to harassment and attacks on climate activists.

In a response, Allen’s spokesman said he detests harassment or any threat of violence.

Nagata said the Keni government has put itself in a corner by promising to identify those trying to thwart the oil industry, when the real problem is finding new economic drivers for Alberta.

“Instead of preparing for that transition, the government of Alberta is engaged in a political witch hunt, attacking a list of its enemies, using public funds to create an investigation, which is under the control of the United Conservative Party. little more than political ammunition,” he said. .

what the commissioner says

Commission spokesman Boras says it took weeks for some participants to accept the invitation to access the evidence, and he’s not sure why.

He was invited to respond to any conclusions the interrogator might make and to report any inaccuracies. Boras said the material should have been kept confidential and the commissioner would not comment on it.

He would not comment on any possible judicial review, but said he was ready to defend his final report.

Jennifer Henshaw, press secretary to Energy Minister Sonya Savage, said she would not comment on either organization’s concerns because the minister had not yet seen the final report.

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