Alberta Politics
Alberta Premier Jason Kenney, flanked by Justice Minister Doug Schweitzer and Energy Minister Sonya Savage, blowing smoke at yesterday’s news conference in Calgary (Photo: Screenshot of Government of Alberta video).

We need an honest inquiry into foreign political funding – unfortunately, Jason Kenney’s ‘witch hunt’ inquiry isn’t it

Posted on July 05, 2019, 1:54 am
8 mins

In truth, Canada needs a thorough and honest inquiry into foreign political funding, online manipulation and influence.

Unfortunately, the $2.5-million probe into “foreign funded defamation” of Alberta’s fossil-fuel industry announced by Alberta Premier Jason Kenney’s government yesterday at a news conference in Calgary isn’t it.

Inquiry Commissioner Steve Allan (Photo: Lieutenant Governor of Alberta).

How could it be? It’s been established to buttress a debunked conspiracy theory that proved useful to the United Conservative Party’s election campaign and may yet have some utility in the efforts of Andrew Scheer and the Conservative Party of Canada to win the federal election this fall.

But as was said here when this “inquiry” was still an irresponsible election promise dreamed up by the UCP’s Rebel Media-inspired campaign team, this can be an honest inquiry, or it can be what the government has promised it will be, but it can’t be both.

If you’re looking for a first indicator of which way it’s going to roll, consider the fact it’s not led by an impartial and disinterested judge, as any serious inquiry into any serious issue would be.

Alberta NDP Economic Development Critic Deron Bilous (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

I don’t know if Justice Minister Doug Schweitzer, who with Energy Minister Sonya Savage seems to be stuck with handling this likely-to-be-embarrassing file, actually talked to any judges about leading this effort, but if he did he must have been laughed out of chambers.

Instead, the inquiry into what Mr. Kenney called “a well-funded political propaganda campaign to defame our energy industry and to land-lock our resources” to the advantage of U.S. energy companies by the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, the Tides Foundation and other U.S. charitable entities will be led by the chair of Calgary Economic Development.

Look, I’m sure Steve Allan is a fine fellow and the “leading forensic and restructuring accountant” described in the government’s news release, but giving responsibility to the leader of a city office set up to sell corporate investors on the benefits of opening branch offices in Cowtown is not a sound strategy for a serious inquiry. Giving the holder of such an office the title of commissioner and subpoena power under the province’s Public Inquiries Act is ludicrous.

As CED describes itself on its website, “Calgary Economic Development is a conduit, connector, catalyst and storyteller.” It’s fair to say, at least, that Mr. Allan obviously has the right background for the job Mr. Kenney obviously has in mind for him.

Prominent environmentalist Tzeporah Berman (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

But only a judge could be the “effective and impartial commissioner,” Mr. Schweitzer described. And it’s doubtful any judge would take on an inquiry with the terms of reference of this one.

It’s also not a good sign that Mr. Kenney repeatedly pointed to commentaries by a Vancouver blogger beloved of the energy industry to back up his dubious claim that $75 million has been expended on this conspiracy.

NDP Economic Development Critic Deron Bilous described the inquiry as a “glorified Google search,” but Vancouver-based environmentalist Tzeporah Berman came closer to the mark when she tweeted that “what is disturbing about this Alberta Inquiry is government using power of the state to harass citizens who disagree with their agenda to expand the oil and gas industry despite the growing threat of climate change. This Inquiry is about civil liberties.”

Energy journalist Markham Hislop (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

Even Stephen Harper committed to phasing out fossil fuels in this century, Ms. Berman noted in another tweet. “Attacking free speech will not turn back the clock.”

Energy journalist Markham Hislop called the inquiry the “Un-Alberta Activities Committee” and described its mandate as conducting a “witch hunt.”

Indeed, Premier Kenney described the tactics of this supposed “disinformation and defamation” campaign as “litigation, public protests and political lobbying,” all activities that are protected by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, in case the UCP missed it.

So if Mr. Kenney expects to use the findings of this inquiry as the basis of a legal effort to harass and sue critics of the fossil fuel industry, the outcome in the courts is likely to be both disappointing and expensive for Alberta taxpayers, even if they sincerely believe Alberta’s fossil fuel industry has been badly done by.

The premier half-heartedly conceded this point yesterday, responding to a reporter’s question with the admission “we can’t project in outside jurisdictions.” D’ya think? Anyone basing a lawsuit on the findings of this group will be laughed out of court, and not just an American court either.

Anyway, it’ll be a relief to Alberta taxpayers and voters to learn the causes of the energy industry’s troubles are not, as the Houston Chronicle explained on Tuesday, caused by rising production, weakening demand, and skeptical investors.

The inquiry is supposed to report on July 2, 2020. That’s the Thursday after a mid-week Canada Day holiday, an excellent day to bury any disappointment if the findings turn out to be somewhat underwhelming.

Thank you, President Trump!

Speaking of inquiries, senior officers of the British Army are sure to be poring over their records from the 18th Century to find out how George Washington’s ragtag rebel insurgents got the jump on them and seized control of their airports during the American Revolutionary War, 1775-1783, as revealed by U.S. President Donald Trump in his speech at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington yesterday.

I am personally grateful to President Trump for solving one of the enduring mysteries of the Climenhaga family, explaining how the excellent Third Waldeck Regiment, German mercenaries in British service said to have included one Heinrich Kleimenhagen, did so poorly.

Obviously, Gen. Washington’s troops destroyed the Hessians’ helicopters on the ground. Either that, or President Trump was having trouble seeing his teleprompter screen through the raindrops.

19 Comments to: We need an honest inquiry into foreign political funding – unfortunately, Jason Kenney’s ‘witch hunt’ inquiry isn’t it

  1. Dave

    July 5th, 2019

    I suppose Mr. Kenney’s is doing his bit to stimulate some sectors of the Alberts economy. The legal sector seems to be a bit busier with challenges to the carbon tax, Postmortal media may get a boost with the war room on environmentalists and now an inquiry into them will give a bit of a boost to CED employees. Fortunately the NDP left him a lower than expected deficit, so he has a bit of mad money to spend on such mad ideas.

    I can’t see this inquiry resulting in much, particularly as most of the groups the UCP seems to want to blacklist operate mainly outside of Alberta. What will Kenney do, take away their Federal charitable status? He must be confusing Federal and Provincial powers again. Actually, wasn’t that what the Federal Harper government he was a part of tried to do before? I suppose in Kenney’s defense, it all probably starts to blur for the guy who seems to be perpetually campaigning for the next big position, whether available yet or not.

    Perhaps Mr. Trump assumed that because Britain as it was well known had naval superiority, it must have also had control of the airports in the US before the time of the American revolution. Sadly, airplanes and hence airports did not exist until over 100 years later. Apparently history is not Mr. Trump’s strong point – what a surprise!

    Reply
      • TLP

        July 8th, 2019

        Unlike the Fraser Institute, which is in fact a registered charity–because, you know, all those poor corporations.

        Reply
    • Bob Raynard

      July 5th, 2019

      If someone chooses to make a donation to the Pembina Institute, there is a place on the page for the donor to make their donation in honour of someone, and a place to submit the honouree’s email address as well, presumably so the PI can advise the honouree of the donation. This gives extra motivation to donate! Give your donation in honour or Jason Kenney, Lorne Gunter, Danielle Smith, David Staples,…

      Reply
      • Geoffrey Pounder

        July 5th, 2019

        No shortage of irony here. As far as pipelines and oilsands expansion go, the Pembina Institute and Jason Kenney are pretty much on the same side.

        Former Pembina executive director Ed Whittingham just wrote an op-ed in the Globe & Mail in support of the Trans Mountain Pipeline expansion. Parroting CAPP’s talking points.
        https://www.theglobeandmail.com/opinion/article-balancing-climate-and-energy-policy-the-trans-mountain-pipeline-is/
        Current Pembina executive director Simon Dyer pens op-eds in The Edmonton Journal preaching “responsible oilsands development”. An oxymoron, if ever there was one. No scientific basis.
        • edmontonjournal.com/opinion/columnists/opinion-look-for-energy-industry-solutions-not-scapegoats

        Donations to the Pembina Institute support more and faster climate change — and failure to meet Canada’s inadequate emissions targets.

        Reply
      • Keith McClary

        July 6th, 2019

        So, I did. They are sending an e-card to JK with my message “Thanks for inspiring my donation”.

        They sent a tax receipt.

        They have a privacy policy for donors. Will the Kenney Inquisition override FOIP to get this info?

        Reply
  2. J.E. Molnar

    July 5th, 2019

    Nothing says “Trumpian” like a good ole American-style witch hunt, funded by taxpayers and conjured up by Alberta’s card-carrying coven of political deplorables.

    While low-income kids are likely to go hungry in schools this fall, with the cancellation of the NDP’s Alberta’s School Nutrition program by the UCP, $2.5 million (plus additional court costs) will be wasted on a frivolous campaign designed to reward conservative sycophants and acolytes beholden to Jason Kenney. Sad.

    https://www.bonnyvillenouvelle.ca/article/alberta-nutrition-program-thriving-in-the-lakeland-20181023

    Reply
    • Expat Albertan

      July 6th, 2019

      Harper was doing this sort of thing before Trump was ever in power.

      En passant, thanks, David, for educating me on the difference between ‘pore’ and ‘pour’. Saved me some embarrassment as I was going to bring your attention to a ‘mistake’.

      Reply
      • David Climenhaga

        July 7th, 2019

        Thanks, Expat. When I see that common (mis)usage, I invariably think of the many times I’ve spilled beer or wine on the pages of a book I was pouring over in a restaurant or bar. DJC

        Reply
  3. ronmac

    July 5th, 2019

    The equivalent of The Great Inquisition. What’s next? The burning of witches at the stake. Except it won’t be witches, but solar panels and windmills. Anything is possible.

    As an aside, it appears conspiracy enthusiast Vivian Krause is not a big fan of Rebel Media. https://youtu.be/wyR8QCXKS_o

    Reply
  4. Bob Raynard

    July 5th, 2019

    So what in heaven’s name does Jason Kenney hope to do with the information he has no doubt directed Mr. Allan to uncover? Two point five million dollars will pay the salary of 25 teachers; is he really going to layoff the equivalent of a school just so he can say I told you so?

    Reply
  5. Sam Gunsch

    July 5th, 2019

    Here’s the proper subject of a public inquiry into the history and state of AB democracy with the purpose of taking it back for the citizenry; a supposed democracy now hollowed out and operated from inside the gov’t by oilsands corporations.

    Oilsands tailings leaking into the Athabasca River and groundwater,
    First Nation citizens downstream giving up on eating fish/animals from the polluted waterways,
    0.1% reclamation of oilsands mining operations for over 50 years,
    intense fragmentation/loss of intact forests due to exploration/development of in-situ oilsands is a major factor in caribou herds declining toward extinction around the oilsands,
    and industry demanding it be allowed to use experimental unproven freshwater capping of tailings ponds rather than cleaning them up thus avoiding tens of billions of reclamation costs while the 5 major oilsands mining companies make billions in profits every quarter as they automate and lay off workers.

    Fifty years of oilsands equals only 0.1% of land reclaimed
    https://www.pembina.org/blog/fifty-years-of-oilsands-equals-only-0-1-of-land-reclaimed
    ==================

    Protect Alberta’s caribou, or they won’t survive 50 more years
    https://www.pembina.org/blog/protect-albertas-caribou-or-they-wont-survive-50-more-years
    ===============

    excerpt: ‘Taft is not the first author to criticize Alberta for being a willing hostage to the oil industry, but he doesn’t call the province a petrostate. He calls it an “oil deep state”: “Petrostates are conceived in petroleum, while oil deep states are captured by petroleum.”

    In other words, we had democracy in Alberta until we discovered oil.’

    https://edmontonjournal.com/news/insight/graham-thomson-oil-deep-state-controls-alberta-former-liberal-leader-kevin-tafts-new-book-says

    Reply
  6. Simon Renouf

    July 5th, 2019

    As you point our DC, wouldn’t it make sense to examine foreign lobbying expenditures on both sides? From the Guardian, March 22, 2019:

    “The largest five stock market listed oil and gas companies spend nearly $200m (£153m) a year lobbying to delay, control or block policies to tackle climate change, according to a new report. Chevron, BP and ExxonMobil were the main companies leading the field in direct lobbying to push against a climate policy to tackle global warming, the report said.”

    “Separately, BP donated $13m to a campaign, also supported by Chevron, that successfully stopped a carbon tax in Washington state – $1m of which was spent on social media ads, the research shows.”

    Reply
  7. John McManus

    July 5th, 2019

    I’m expecting jumpup jasons my little pony petro possee at my door to question me about donations to the Suzuki Foundation. When they say ‘ we’re jasons secret police ‘ they’ll knock their cowboy hats off slapping their brow ridges and saying ” doh , that was supposed to be a secret ‘.

    Reply
  8. Political Ranger

    July 5th, 2019

    At least ol’ Ralphy had an excuse for his craziness. Kenney is too young for the onset of Alzheimer’s so it has to be a more organic mental condition. He needs help. Before he wanders into traffic.
    What is perhaps more worrisome is that most people voted for this nutjob. What doe that portend for this province?

    And where did they get the used car salesman?
    Is this what really passes for serious political oversight these days – lord help us!

    Reply
  9. D. Bruce Turton

    July 5th, 2019

    Of little interest to JK et al seems to be any other “Alberta energy” production. What is of interest is merely extractive industries, whether tar sands, fracked sites, or other liquid resources, and their use and export. No mention (nor support I am sure) of the wind power ‘energy’ resources throughout the province now, nor of all the cities, towns, villages, and Indigenous People’s communities that have put bucks and backs to work to install solar electricity production. No mention of the ‘energy’ possibilities of geothermal, whether existing residential and business installations, nor even [neighbourhood] plant scale electricity production which could be achieved.
    Seems we continue to do the one-trick-pony routine of fossil fuel extraction as the saviour of our “energy”!

    Reply
  10. Hana Razga

    July 5th, 2019

    And so we boldly go where we went before…..back to the future

    Reply
  11. Jerrymacgp

    July 5th, 2019

    My, oh my, how many of his feet can The Donald fit into his mouth at once? TelePrompTer or no, it doesn’t take a PhD in American history to know, there were no airports in 1776, and the “rockets’ red glare” is actually related to the War of 1812, not the American Insurrection. If he couldn’t see the text of his speech, he could have ad-libbed, except he doesn’t know the material well enough to do it. Maybe the Benighted States need to amend their Holy Constitution to require at least a passing grade in Grade 12–or 12th-Grade, as they tend to phrase it—American History to be eligible to run for President.

    You gotta give him one thing, though: US politics would be oh, so much more boring without him lol :-).

    Reply
  12. Bill Malcolm

    July 5th, 2019

    Those pesky environmentalists, foreign-funded by people trying to stop Alberta’s right to pollute and generally act like cowboys oblivious of any interest except their own, just cheese Jason off. No doubt he’s advised the Pope to mind his own business on climate change too. US and foreign funded petro-state propaganda is of course welcome. But, Jason wants to stamp out people trying to save the world because Alberta knows better – climate change isn’t happening. Kenney at his weirdest. Misplaced paranoia about sums up his attitude.

    As for Trump, well a bozo never changes its spots. Probably the reference to airports flew right past many of the Trump Chumps sittin’ at home guzzlin’ beer on the Fourth. High school education ain’t what it used to be, especially in poor counties. The US has no collective sense of humour about itself. That to me has always been the difference between the current US Empire and that of the Brits before them. The Brits were always quite happy to have a joke at their own cultural expense.

    Reply

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