A typical scene near Palm Springs, Calif., where the work of the Alberta Inquiry into anti-energy conspiracies has been going on (Photo: VisitGreaterPalmSprings.com).

Before the Alohagate travel scandal upset the United Conservative Party’s applecart, Commissioner Steve Allan’s big report on “anti-Alberta energy campaigns” was supposed to be Alberta’s first major political story of 2021. 

But if the report is released as scheduled later this month – no certainty given its sputtering progress to date – it’s more likely to be an embarrassing dud. 

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

Months late and a million dollars over budget, the results of the now $3.5-million inquiry into the supposed activities of allegedly anti-Alberta environmentalists and American funders so mysterious they can’t be found are likely to be unconvincing, trivial and rendered irrelevant by the passage of time. 

The release of the report certainly won’t be the day of destiny in the defence of Alberta’s ethical oilsands that Premier Jason Kenney promised back when he was successfully campaigning to turf the NDP from office and Make Alberta Great Again. 

It’s more likely to be yet another embarrassment for a government that’s put all our eggs in the oilsands basket, only to see it become the Northern Hemisphere’s least popular stranded asset. 

The fact Commissioner Allan has apparently turned out to be yet another Kenney Government official caught up in the ongoing pandemic travel scandal is just one more reason to expect the release of the report to be another UCP humiliation in what’s already turning into an epic bad year for the government. 

As far as anyone knows, the so-called public inquiry, which has conducted almost all of its business in secret, has never actually talked to any of the groups or people it was supposed to be investigating in the year and a half it’s been in business. 

Originally promised as an election gimmick to buttress a crackpot theory about how environmental opponents of further oilsands development were conspiring against Alberta, the inquiry has been largely eclipsed by subsequent events. 

I’m not talking about the fact Mr. Allan turns out to have been doing his work, whatever it involves, from his Palm Springs winter quarters in sunny but COVID-riddled southern California, although that surely won’t help. 

U.S. president-elect Joe Biden (Photo: Gage Skidmore, Creative Commons).

Rather, it’s that the efforts of Canadian environmentalists and mysterious American charitable foundations were hardly needed to set oilsands development on its heels. The market, COVID-19, and an emerging international consensus on global climate change are taking care of that. 

Indeed, as biased as Mr. Allan’s effort is likely to be, the Ecojustice Canada Society could almost have saved its money and let the inquiry into “anti-energy” activities discredit itself. (No point being anti-energy anyway, as any first-year physics student can tell you. The stuff can neither be created nor destroyed.) 

Unless President Donald Trump somehow manages to steal the U.S. presidential election in the U.S. Congress today, the White House will soon be occupied by a chief executive unlikely to be sympathetic to oilsands development or the Kenney Government’s ambitions. 

I suppose Mr. Kenney could squeeze out a few headlines by accusing the U.S. of perpetrating a globalist conspiracy to landlock Alberta on the basis of whatever Mr. Allen comes up with. 

That might be tempting if the premier concludes it could distract from additional Alohagate fallout and the dawning realization by voters about how long it’s going to take to get vaccinated against COVID-19. He might even be able to worm his way back into the good graces of Rick Bell and Don Braid, the Postmedia political columnists who have been saying uncharacteristically unkindly things about the premier these past few days. 

But acting like a Qanon cultist is unlikely to lend much credibility to Mr. Kenney’s forlorn quest to Make Oil Great Again. 

If the UCP’s strategic brain trust has any sense – and that’s an open question right now – they’ll release this thing late on Jan. 22, the Friday after President Joe Biden is inaugurated, when all the world is focused on his administration’s first moves and Mr. Trump’s final theatrics. 

Tany Yao resurfaces

Tany Yao has resurfaced, thank goodness. 

Fort Mac MLA Tany Yao, who has resurfaced in Mexico, thank goodness (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

The Mexican federales can call off any plans they might have had to declare an alerta ambar, and even good souls like David Eggen, the Opposition’s advanced education critic, can stop fussing about Mr. Yao’s well-being. 

Having finally turned on his smartphone, the Fort McMurray-Wood Buffalo MLA who’s been missing in Mexico since the travel scandal broke will soon be back in Alberta, presumably in quarantine for 14 days before he can join the rest of the Alohagate chastisees in reciting the UCP talking point that they made a terrible mistake, are really sorry, and can now be trusted to behave. 

Mr. Yao claimed he went off the grid in Mexico because he has experienced “abuse and slander” after his private member’s bill allowing sales of blood and blood products was rebuked in media. 

“I just wanted to disconnect and clear my head after the last year,” he said, demonstrating that if you can’t stand the heat, there’s good air-conditioning and fine kitchen help in Mexico. 

Slave Lake Council asks their well-travelled MLA to quit

Meanwhile, down in the Lone Star State, Lesser Slave Lake MLA Pat Rehn doesn’t even have a house to call his own. But the well-travelled UCP backbencher from northern Alberta wants you to know he does have a residence in his riding! 

Lesser Slave Lake UCP MLA Pat Rehn during his recent Christmas vacation in Mexico (Photo: Facebook).

In a remarkable statement published yesterday on the Town of Slave Lake’s website, the mayor and six municipal councillors accused Mr. Rehn of moving out of town as soon as he was elected, never being around to meet with local officials, and generally being “an MLA that does not represent the people of this region.”

“You have spent more physical time managing your business in Texas than being physically present in our region,” they complained. “On behalf of the Town of Slave Lake and those we represent, we are asking for your resignation as MLA for the Lesser Slave Lake constituency.”

Well, good luck with that. Having gotten in hot water for travelling to Mexico for a feliz Navidad during the pandemic, Mr. Rehn’s job at the Legislature just got easier with the removal of all his committee responsibilities with no loss in pay. 

In a response on his Facebook page, Mr. Rehn denied owning a residence in Texas, but said he does have one in Slave Lake.

“I have needed to travel to Texas within the past year to address essential business matters,” he added. “I, of course, complied with all health requirements when doing so.” 

He accused the councillors of “seizing on this to try to sow political division at this difficult time.”

Join the Conversation


  1. .. Love your Indy blog.. a ‘must read’
    and always in my top recommends re Canadian Journalism

    My suggestion is you utilize
    ‘Make Bitumen Great Again’ not ‘oil’

    Canada’s ‘vast oil reserves’ are actually 97% Bitumen
    I lash mainstream lazy reporters for using pumpjack stock photos
    as if any Bitumen ever was extracted via such equipment

    Further.. its not O & G – Oil & Gas ..
    Its Bitumen and Methane.. so update to B & M ?
    The ‘oil patch’ needs to retire as well..
    Alberta has abundant Methane Fields & pipelines
    even owns a BC pipeline to Kitimat that’s never mentioned
    Yes, Jason Kenney ensured majority, controlling interest
    in the Pacific Trails pipeline from TC Energy
    who he seems to favour for throwing Trust Fund $ he’s looting
    That ‘investment’ was made public Christmas Day 2019
    approx one year + ago.. in hindsight, perhaps Albertans would now prefer
    he’d kept all the $$ he threw at TC Energy et al.. for Healthcare & Education
    it sure looks like strip mining the Foothills & toxifying The Oldman watershed
    on behalf of Australia & coal trains to somewhere not called Vancouver
    and the Salish Sea aint going to help anyone in Alberta

    Anyway anyway.. all the best – keep up the fine work !!
    I watch from Ontario.. but am an old Alberta and BC hand.. as well

  2. “…Mr. Allan turns out to have been doing his work, whatever it involves, from his Palm Springs winter quarters…”
    This dedicated public servant gives a whole new meaning to “working from home.” In his spare time he can play golf on his choice of palm lined championship courses, go on home tours of fellow Palm Springs celebrities, and best of all, keep up with the famous Kardashians at the family compound.

  3. If this “anti-Alberta energy” Inquiry is accepting nominations for public enemy number one I would like to submit the name Aubrey McClendon. Aubrey McClendon? Good question. You probably never heard of him. He’s the guy probably most responsible for the shale oil craze in the US, coming up with fancy new terminology to lure Wall Street investors into pouring billions into the shale oil money pit. Today most of those shale oil companies are bankrupt and the wells they have drilled will never produce anything. In fact, the Wall Street guys who collected the investment fees have probably snorted more coke up their noses than Texas has produced oil.

    And Aubrey McClendon? Facing bankruptcy and fraud charges, he crashed his car into a concrete wall in 2016. https://youtu.be/KL7309tce8s

  4. To add to what Dave has said. Another stupid display of their ignorance has shown up in southern Alberta .
    MLA Grant Hunter, Cardston, Taber-Warner is bragging to southern Albertans about the fact that they have pasted bill 15 to cut corporate taxes from Notley’s 12% down to 8%. This while they promise to eliminate 11,000 health workers jobs. Where is the intelligence in that?
    In other words they are only interested in looking after their rich friends who created the Orphan Wells mess in the first place, and don’t give a damn about helping the farmer and ranchers with the clean it up. I’m sure it was all Ottawa’s fault and they will expect the rest of Canada to pay for the clean it up.
    It’s just one more bit of stupidity to add to the others.

  5. Everything is essential, just like Sonya Savage’s house repairs, am I right? These people think they’re essential workers, as much as those paramedics, doctors and nurses working on the front lines of the health system, fighting Covid and saving lives. Those politicians are heroes, hot tub heroes, I tell you!

    We’ve determined that Jason Kenney’s plausible deniability in the Tracy Allard file is neither plausible nor deniable. So who listens to anything he says now? Old Steve Allen might as well extend his stay to investigate the number of one enemy of Alberta oil and gas himself, Joe Biden.

    Old Joe is sure not going to be happy about Kenney’s coal mines turning off the selenium-tainted tap on that river that crosses the border, either. Fun times!

    Never mind. There’s still plenty of other things for Kenney to destroy here in Alberta. Plenty! And he has two more years to do it. Game on!

  6. Heh, I found my way over to Postmedia because JKs wrist-lickers biting the hand that feeds has to be seen to be believed. They sure do seem to be mad at the UCP this time. Found their comments section to be more informative than the article. Seemed to be about 1/3 people claiming they’ve wanted Kenny & the UCP gone for a while now, 1/3 UCP supporters who are angry but still willing to rally around the jingoism-du-jour, and 1/3 crazy folks shouting nonsense at clouds. I didn’t have the stomach for a deep comments dive so small sample size alert.

    More interestingly, they have a page called “our brands” boasting of 120+ “brands” of “journalism”. Having different “brands” of media owned by the same people seems like a really dishonest way to try to magnify their ideology even more than it already is. A reasonable adult might think, “gosh, the national post and the financial post both agree on something, it must be very credible information,” instead of “two mouthpieces of the same company said the same thing, whoddathunkit.”

    Some free speech drowns out other free speech. One of many problems of free speech that Canadian society is desperately avoiding talking about.

  7. You know, it is probably better if Mr. Allan stays in Palm Springs and isolates in place, or however they might want to spin it and not bother with his report or coming back any time soon. Really, just admit this thing is a failure, a dud, end it, stop wasting more taxpayer money and move on. As the old saying goes, when you find yourself in a hole the best thing to do is to first stop digging.

    I suppose some people were willing to give Kenney, with his questionable quasi conspiracy theories, the benefit of the doubt when he came up with the idea of this inquiry, but it seems to have turned out to be a big nothing. No public hearings and as far as I can tell he hasn’t even talked to these environmental groups. I don’t know if Mr. Allan fancies himself to be some sort of a latter day Matlock, but if he does, it would seem a bit delusional.

    As Mr. Kenney has already found out earlier this week, the best thing to do when you make mistakes in judgment is to correct them. Better still if you admit your error and apologize, voters can at times be surprisingly forgiving. However, this dig in your heels despite the evidence, or in this case more likely the lack of evidence, approach is a bad one. Lets stop wasting the government’s time and money.

    It seems like the people of Slave Lake would like to recall their MLA. Gee, if Kenney kept his promise about recall legislation, they could do it, but this seems like another grassroots guarantee Kenney has made and conveniently forgotten. Now that the political honeymoon is over for Kenney, I doubt he will be eager to bring in recall legislation, regardless of what the people of Slave Lake want. Perhaps that will save Kenney the embarrassment of a predecessor Alberta Premier Aberhart, who did bring in recall legislation, only to have the voters try use it against him, so he repealed it.

    As for Mr. Yao, not only are the voters angry with him, but I imagine his boss whose calls he didn’t return for quite a while is also. I wouldn’t be surprised if he gets some special additional punishment after he gets back, more so than the rest of the UCP snow flyers.

  8. It certainly doesn’t take one to be a genius to figure out how many of our fellow seniors are just plain idiots. Just write something bad about Kenney on any newspaper blogs and the fools come out to attack you. They don’t care about how he is creating policies that is only going to cost them a lot more money and they have no sympathy for how our doctors, nurses, and teachers have been treated by this phoney conservative , and they certainly don’t care about our farmers whose land has been rendered worthless by these reformers, because of the orphan well mess.

    I haven’t forgotten the nurses bawling their eyes out in my office when Klein destroyed their careers. I helped nine doctors and at least two dozen nurses relocate out of this province and not one wanted to go. One of the doctors said it best” Why should I stay and support my patients when they won’t support me against this fool Ralph Klein”.

    I wonder how many other doctors feel this way about their patients and what Kenney has done to them?

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