After more than two years, $3.5 million dollars and a couple of dozen embarrassing scandals the “Public inquiry into anti-Alberta energy campaigns” is finally complete and buried deep in the report, on page 596, you’ll find a sentence that invalidates the whole enterprise.
“I agree that, on its own, the label “anti-Alberta” or “anti-Albertan”, is not helpful or constructive; it does not reflect the objectives or work of this Inquiry,” says the report.
Sonya Savage at her shambolic press conference. Photo via Government of Alberta Newsroom.
You have to wonder then what this project was all about. Energy minister Sonya Savage clearly doesn't agree that the objective wasn't to sniff out "anti-Alberta" agents. "We have a right to be mad," she asserted today, waving a document that doesn't really explain why.
In a disastrous press conference Savage gamely tried to defend the inquiry’s output, yet admitting "the numbers were confusing to me as well… that's when he gets into wordsmithing... that's where it gets complicated." But of course, she adds, the $3.5 million inquiry budget was money well spent.
Savage and the UCP government are determined to declare victory and run. The “key findings” document, which was not written by Allan but by the provincial government, leads with a huge whopper of a lie: “the report confirms the existence of well-funded foreign interests that have been waging a decade-long campaign of misinformation.” The report makes no such finding.
In fact early in the inquiry process Commissioner Allan decided that his inquiry didn’t have the time or resources to fact-check statements made by environmental organizations. Are environmental organizations producing misinformation? Allan and the government have no evidence, but Sonya Savage sure feels that they do.
The UCP are already pulling big numbers from the report and deploying them misleadingly. Messaging is already out focusing on the $1.3 billion sum of foreign-funding of “Canadian-based” environmental initiatives from 2003 and 2019—but that number counts all sorts of projects that didn’t involve Alberta, and even includes $429 million that went to Ducks Unlimited Canada. Ducks Unlimited, surely, are not among the ranks of anti-Albertans: as we reported Jason Kenney’s former principal secretary and interim chief of staff Larry Kaumeyer is now the CEO of Ducks Unlimited Canada.
In fact the inquiry could only nail down $54.1 million of funding that specifically went to “anti-Alberta resource development activity.” Just for comparison’s sake the Canadian Energy Centre (a.k.a. Kenney’s ‘war room’) had a yearly budget of $30 million. If $54 million over 18 years is enough money to cause over $8 trillion of divestments as the report claims these environmental organizations have run the most effective campaign in the history of modern activism. I guess you really do have to hand it to them.
Allan’s report makes no findings of misconduct. In fact Allan goes to great lengths to say over and over again that, “I do not find that participation in any anti-Alberta energy campaign constitutes misconduct on the part of any party that should be viewed as impugnable in any way.”
So if there’s no misconduct and no misinformation what’s left? Hurt feelings.
"We have a right to be mad," was the final line from Savage’s shambolic press conference. “Alberta should be outraged,” was Savage’s line from the press release.
Sure these organizations did nothing wrong and were simply exercising their democratic rights of free expression but oh boy, does it make us mad. This is a hilarious climb-down from Kenney’s bombastic campaign trail rhetoric where he said “a UCP government would immediately pursue an aggressive legal strategy to hold the Tar Sands Campaign funders to account for what they have done to our province.”
If by ‘holding to account’ you mean having a press conference where your long-delayed report that was supposed to get to the bottom of your conspiracy theory is laughed out of the room then promise made, promise kept.
And just a point of information for our friends and supporters, despite our organization being mentioned by name in that campaign trail rhetoric from Kenney about how he would “pursue all possible legal remedies,” Progress Alberta is not mentioned in Allan’s report once. While we threatened to sue the inquiry if it ever came after us or if it ever acted like a real public inquiry the Allan inquiry never ended up doing either of those things.
At least there’s one fun part of this report. Desperate to appear competent in comparison, Allan found space to take a few potshots at the only UCP project around that’s even more embarrassing than his: the constantly-bumbling Canadian Energy Centre.
“There were several missteps from the outset that damaged its reputation from which it has not been able to recover,” says Allan. “Its governance, and accordingly its credibility, is seriously compromised by having three provincial cabinet ministers comprising its board of directors.”
“There may be a need for a vehicle such as this, assuming proper governance and accountability is established, to develop a communications/marketing strategy for the industry and/or the province, but it may well be that the reputation of this entity has been damaged beyond repair.”