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

Judge hopes to rule on Ecojustice effort to shut down energy campaigns inquiry before May 31 – why that shouldn’t be a problem

Posted on February 18, 2021, 2:12 am
6 mins

We’re all just going to have to wait to find out how the legal effort by Ecojustice Canada Society to shut down Alberta’s so-called “Public Inquiry into Anti-Alberta Energy Campaigns” turns out.

After hearing arguments for two days last week from lawyers for Ecojustice, the province, inquiry Commissioner Steve Allan, and a group of about 300 pro-industry organizations and individuals, Madam Justice Karen Horner reserved judgment.

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney as he looked when he was vowing to launch an inquiry into foreign-funded environmental campaigns if he became premier (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

She said she hoped to make a decision before May 31, the government’s latest deadline for the inquiry to submit its report.

In case you were thinking Mr. Allan might try to beat her ruling by hurrying to publish his findings, it’s probably a safe bet Justice Horner will get there well before he manages to report anything. The Calgary accountant has already missed two deadlines and it’ll probably be a stretch for him to meet the third one. 

Ecojustice’s arguments are well known: that the inquiry has been biased from the get-go, is an improper use of the province’s Public Inquiries Act, and is outside the province’s jurisdiction. 

Whether or not Ecojustice is winning in court is impossible to say – you just never can tell with a judicial proceeding. But the society is certainly well ahead in the Canadian court of public opinion, in which Mr. Allan’s lamentable efforts look more ridiculous by the week. 

In addition to all those missed deadlines and the fact the “public” inquiry has been conducted entirely in secret, Mr. Allan now has to contend with public reaction to the three “research papers” he commissioned for the inquiry. 

Two were rife with claims sinister Marxists are influencing the environmental movement and preposterous theorizing about a huge global conspiracy to overthrow capitalism and replace it with subsistence farming or something. The third was produced by a Washington-based lobby for a group of U.S. fracking corporations. And for this we paid nearly $100,000! 

In other words, most Canadians have already concluded the inquiry is a bad joke. No matter what Mr. Allan comes up with, that perception is not going to be easy to change. 

Madam Justice Karen Horner (Photo: International Insolvency Institute).

As for the arguments last week, the province’s lawyer, predictably, insisted the inquiry is in the public interest and that no particular group is being targeted. 

Mr. Allan’s lawyer told the court the commissioner is a public spirited guy, engaged in many political and community causes, who’s just trying to “improve living conditions for Calgarians and Calgary businesses.”

And according to the lawyer for the 300 interested parties, they’re deeply affected by the health of Alberta’s oil and gas industry and they just want to hear what the inquiry has to say.

Full disclosure: I didn’t tune in to the Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench virtual hearing online. I’m just trusting the rather skimpy media reports for these summaries. 

It probably doesn’t help either that just about the only decent royalty-free photo of Mr. Allen shows him wearing a cowboy hat and standing in front of a circus Ferris wheel. 

In terms of the speed with which Mr. Allan can wrap up this slow-motion train wreck, Ecojustice’s suit and all the attention it’s gotten mean there’s no way he can get away without dotting all the i’s and crossing all the t’s in his report to ensure anyone about whom he makes a negative finding has a chance to review and rebut all the evidence.

That will take time. 

Cut corners to hurry out the report and, guaranteed, the inquiry and Premier Jason Kenney’s United Conservative Party Government are going to be back in court facing judicial review of the whole dubious exercise. 

If no one is criticized, well, Premier Kenney just isn’t going to look like a genius for vowing during the election campaign to get to the bottom of the supposed conspiracy by foreign environmental charities to “landlock” the Canadian energy industry, setting the whole thing in motion, and then coming up with bupkes! 

It sure sounds as if no one in the UCP strategic brain trust bothered to read the Public Inquiries Act to see how much work it was to run a proper public inquiry before they set the wheels of this plan in motion. 

Rest assured, no one is urging a judicial outcome by saying this, but Justice Horner would probably be doing the government an undeserved favour if she put a stop to the inquiry before Mr. Allan could come up with a report!

15 Comments to: Judge hopes to rule on Ecojustice effort to shut down energy campaigns inquiry before May 31 – why that shouldn’t be a problem

  1. Anonymous

    February 18th, 2021

    The UCP are looking for any scapegoats they can to detract from their well known incompetence. The sad thing is that Albertans end up paying for it in the end.

    Reply
  2. Bob Raynard

    February 18th, 2021

    “…Justice Horner would probably be doing the government an undeserved favour if she put a stop to the inquiry before Mr. Allan could come up with a report!”

    Personally, I think that is the way out of this embarrassment the government is hoping for. Then they can rail to their base about the unelected judges.

    Reply
    • karl roth

      February 18th, 2021

      think you have it right

      Kenney/UCP a ship of fools without a doubt

      Reply
    • Expat Albertan

      February 21st, 2021

      I also agree. I think if they were ‘forced’ to release the sham of a report it would be roundly criticized for it’s shoddy quality and make the UCP seem even more incompetent (if that were even possible, at this point).

      Reply
  3. Dave

    February 18th, 2021

    This may be the most secretive public inquiry in the history of Alberta. I suppose this reflects how Kenney and the UCP like to operate – not with much, if any, public input and then they spring things on people. Unfortunately, as has recently been noted by others about other issues, voters often do not like such surprises. Good public policy generally involves public involvement in the process of making it and I think the same is true for a public inquiry. Hence, the word public in front of the word inquiry. I get the sense that many environmental groups would actually welcome a public process to debate and defend their actions. This very secretive process is denying them this opportunity.

    I do have to wonder what will happen in late May. Will the government grant yet again another extension to Mr. Allan? I thought three times would be too embarrassing, but perhaps the government feels it would be even more embarrassing to have not much to show for all its efforts. Actually, perhaps the best solution for them is if Justice Horner shuts the whole thing down and puts it out of its misery. Kenney can pretend to be outraged about this for a few days and then just try forget about the whole thing, as if it never happened.

    Reply
  4. Bruce Turton

    February 18th, 2021

    Wonder if more of the Alberta taxpayers $$$ will be used by TC Energy to pay dividends? Maybe the rest of the bucks, after the already granted $1.5 Billions, will somehow be granted to TC so that the shareholders can be further enriched. How much more of all this privatization of our tax dollars the UCP will be able to get away with?

    Reply
    • Mickey Rat

      February 19th, 2021

      Oh yeah, TC Energy just raised their dividend today. Thx Alberta taxpayers…

      Reply
  5. Jay

    February 18th, 2021

    Continue the inquiry giving full disclose to thier funding for these eco groups.
    How much has Warren Buffet donated to shut in pipelines so his train can generate money for railroad investment?
    What about other USA gas and oil companies that are happy to keep the Canadian oil dollar return low?

    Reply
    • Richard De Marco

      February 21st, 2021

      USA oil and gas companies own most of the Alberta oil sands, son.

      Reply
  6. Scotty on Denman

    February 18th, 2021

    Plainly the premiere didn’t really mean he was going to “get to the bottom” of an Anti-Alberta-Bitumen conspiracy. He just wanted to affirm, confirm, and reaffirm/confirm such a conspiracy exists with his electoral base who don’t need a lot of detail to put an X in a box—whether alleged conspirators are mirage, hallucination, or bogeyman, it doesn’t really matter. In fact, in this case, that’d be too much info. And that’s the inquiry’s problem: it doesn’t have enough of the campfire horror story material to qualify as too much—or maybe it has too much of that and not anything more substantial except maybe a worn-out office putter. Commissioner Allan would rather skip right to the iconization of ‘Big,’ ‘Bad,’ ‘Comin’-tuh-gitcha’ conspiracy—worse n Justin Trudeau! Damn the accounting principles!

    The inquiry’s moment of shame will come—just in time for Kenney’s opening of bars and clubs for Covid-Year-II summer fun. The planning and sheer, shrewd acumen is astounding!

    Reply
  7. ayeamaye

    February 19th, 2021

    True,true,and true. Just one thing…who’s picking up the tab for this fiasco.

    Reply
    • karl roth

      February 19th, 2021

      take a guess

      sum l, actually too many albertans are rubes and true believers of the hokum that our bought and paid for politicos spew

      Reply
  8. e.a.f.

    February 19th, 2021

    The picture gave me a good laugh. Where did they pick that guy up? Some where in Texas. that is one person I’d not purchase a used vehicle from.

    Reply
  9. Just Me

    February 19th, 2021

    The Angry & Crying Midget has to keep these boondoggles going. Can’t let those activist, liberal judges stand in the way of what Alberta voted for.

    Really. Alberta voted for the War Room, the Keystone XL $7B buy-in and loan guarantee disaster, the endless legions of $250K/year + expenses issues managers trolling social media, weirdo quacks of every description promoting whatever nonsense that masquerades as rational policies, and policy decisions that will see every mountain top smashed, every body of water poisoned, and every one of Alberta’s natural legacies scrubbed from the face of the Earth.

    Alberta voters. They are stupidest people alive.

    Reply

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