Alberta Politics
Alberta Premier Jason Kenney at yesterday’s news conference on his government’s “historic” jobs program (Photo: Winston Pon, Office of the Premier).

Foundering public inquiry gets another two months to find evidence; UCP gets even more time to figure out what to do with it

Posted on May 20, 2021, 1:51 am
9 mins

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney has announced his government’s foundering “public inquiry” into the supposed conspiracy by American interests to bankroll environmental charities to help landlock Alberta’s fossil fuel resources will get another two months to come up with some evidence.

After that, the government will give itself an additional three months to figure out what to do with the report. 

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

The lengthy delay is the fourth deadline extension since the inquiry was launched in July 2019. 

So far, apparently, Commissioner Steve Allen hasn’t found anything except excuses for his inability to uncover any evidence, and embarrassingly bad research papers on which to spend exorbitant amounts of public money.

You’d think this would be enough to test the faith of even the UCP’s most credulous partisans.

The government’s claim the unsuccessful Ecojustice court challenge of the inquiry’s legality is the cause of the latest delay strains Mr. Allan’s already diminished credibility.

Mr. Kenney, who announced the delay on social media Wednesday night, and Energy Minister Sonya Savage didn’t exactly help the government’s case by claiming the Ecojustice appeal was at once “frivolous” and yet such a serious threat the commissioner could focus on nothing else. So which is it?

Indeed, one has to wonder if the forensic accountant from Calgary is capable of walking and chewing gum at the same time, since the inquiry’s side was represented by numerous fine lawyers during the court hearing. In addition to the Alberta Government, the Kenney Cabinet, the Minister of Justice, additional lawyers representing such intervenors as industry advocacy groups and fossil fuel billionaire W. Brett Wilson squared off against Ecojustice. So how was it Commissioner Allan didn’t have time to complete his work again?

“Due to the time wasted by the obstructive legal efforts of Ecojustice which were ultimately unsuccessful, Cabinet has approved a short extension until July 30th for the Commissioner to complete his important work,” Ms .Savage said in a short statement yesterday. “Our government promised Albertans that we would fully investigate the widely reported foreign-funded campaign to land lock our resources and we are committed to fulfilling that promise.”

Ecojustice’s “frivolous lawsuit perfectly confirmed why we need that transparency, why we need to shine a spotlight on the foreign source of funds behind the campaign to landlock Canadian energy,” Mr. Kenney told a Globe and Mail reporter during a news conference about another topic yesterday.

Alberta Energy Minister Sonya Savage (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

The transparency of which he spoke must be a reference to the inquiry’s eventual conclusions, not the way it reaches them, since the inquiry’s business has been conducted almost entirely in secrecy.

With reasoning like this, you’d almost think the government was desperate to find any old excuse to put off having to accept whatever Mr. Allan has managed to cobble together while the UCP faces many bigger challenges.

Especially since, as University of Calgary law professor Martin Olszynski tweeted yesterday, the Ecojustice lawsuit was for all intents and purposes over by mid-February – two weeks after Mr. Allen’s third extension. 

Well, there’s only so much negative news a government on the ropes can stand at one time. But who says things will be any better by the end of October, when the government now plans to make the report’s conclusions public? By then Alberta may be in the midst of a fourth wave of COVID-19.

To top it all off, the Vancouver blogger whose ideas Mr. Kenney latched onto in the lead-up to the 2019 election campaign seems to have quietly revised a key part of her conspiracy theory that the inquiry was struck to uncover.

“I’ve seen no evidence that the deeper motivation is to benefit (American) competitors,” Vivian Krause tweeted Tuesday, prompting Prof. Olszynski to tweet several examples of past statements suggesting she thought the goal of the alleged campaign was to allow the U.S. to dominate the oil market. 

For her part, Ms. Krause insists she has recanted nothing.

To say the least, the justification for the Kenney Government’s 2019 election promise of an inquiry is starting to look a little threadbare, even if we do manage to learn its conclusions before the start of 2022. 

Historic investment in jobs or Band Aid fix? 

NDP Labour Critic Christina Gray (Photo: Screenshot of NDP video).

Also yesterday, perhaps partly as a diversion from the embarrassing news about the Allan Inquiry, Premier Kenney called a news conference to announce a “historic investment to create thousands of jobs.”

The $370 million committed to the program to subsidize employers who hire new employees, which the premier called “the largest jobs training program in Alberta’s history,” will get “more than 22,000 Albertans back to work faster,” Labour Minister Jason Copping promised. 

Mr. Kenney probably didn’t help himself much outside his base by answering a reporter’s question about paid sick leave with a dismissive declaration “we are not going to adopt job-killing policies.”

NDP Labour Critic Christina Gray, the former labour minister, was quick to point out that 50,000 Albertans lost their jobs on the Kenney Government’s watch even before the pandemic hit. 

The 22,000 new jobs promised by the government “is one-tenth the amount of unemployed Albertans we have right now,” she said. Mr. Kenney’s government has promised plenty of jobs since it was elected, with a singular lack of success.

Ms. Gray dismissed the announcement nothing more than a Band-Aid fix at a time Albertans need an economic strategy. 

K-12 students to be hurried back to in-person classes

Alberta Education Minister Adriana LaGrange (Photo: Alberta Newsroom/Flickr).

Meanwhile, also yesterday, Education Minister Adriana LaGrange announced most Kindergarten to Grade 12 students in Alberta will be returning to in-person classes after the long weekend. Chief Medical Officer of Health Deena Hinshaw was on hand for that news conference to lend Ms. LaGrange some badly needed credibility. 

As has been the pattern since the start of the pandemic, as soon as there is a dip in new cases of COVID-19, the Kenney Government is in a big hurry give the appearance things are returning to normal. “I am confident all students will finish the remainder of the school year in the classroom,” Ms. LaGrange said in the government’s press release. 

Students in the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo, where COVID rates have been particularly high, will have to stay home, but only for an additional week.

In the government’s favour, any return to higher infection rates as a result is unlikely to be characterized as a fourth wave of COVID-19, merely a continuation of the third wave Alberta is now enduring. 

NOTE: This story has been updated with additional information.

28 Comments to: Foundering public inquiry gets another two months to find evidence; UCP gets even more time to figure out what to do with it

  1. Dave

    May 20th, 2021

    So the most secretive public inquiry, perhaps ever in Alberta, gets an extension. Why? Well astonishing claims about transparency aside, we’re not quite sure. However, I do doubt the Ecojustice excuse actually had much to do do with it.

    Most likely – let’s just say the UCP has a lot on its plate right now and things are not going well, so they really don’t want to deal with another problem right now.

    Usually, one is out after three strikes, but this inquiry seems to have gotten yet another reprieve. Generally such inquiries are also led by a distinguished lawyer or a judge. So perhaps Kenney is waiting for Mr. Allen to get his law degree or something else.

    Reply
  2. Anonymous

    May 20th, 2021

    The UCP are basically delaying a foregone conclusion that we all know by now. It’s also costing Albertans a lot of money in the process. The UCP wants more time to search for something that isn’t there. To be frank, the UCP will have as much success with this, as someone would by trying to find out how Cadbury’s gets the caramel inside of their Caramilk candy bar. If someone was doing this type of thing at their place of employment, they’d be fired. Covid-19 isn’t an excuse for this either. If the NDP were still in power, there are people who would think the NDP are causing the problems. There are people who still think Justin Trudeau is causing the problems. What it comes down to is that oil is a commodity, like gold, silver and copper are. The price of it is controlled by market forces. There’s another factor at play here. Oilsands oil is of a different grade. It just can’t compete with the other types of oil. This has been known for the last 7 years. The UCP also have to look at how they are going to come up with the $260 billion that is needed to correct all the damage that the oil companies did in Alberta. The problems with that started with the Alberta PCs, within the last 30 years. In this instance, it’s like the UCP are trying to box at shadows.

    Reply
    • An old Albertan

      May 21st, 2021

      It’s been known for at least 47 years. You missed a digit. I call that a typo. Good post otherwise

      Reply
  3. !?

    May 20th, 2021

    $370mm for jobs !?
    Where is that money coming from ?
    Any federal dollars there ?
    Is this enough to cover Brett Wilson’s mess?

    Reply
    • Hana Razga

      May 20th, 2021

      Half of the money is coming from the Federal Government.

      Reply
  4. Abs

    May 20th, 2021

    Gosh, this shock doctrine info-dump was a big one. Disaster capitalism is living up to its name.

    To Stampede Steve, let’s make a deal. No Stampede for anyone until you hand in your homework. How’s the weather wherever you are?

    To Adriana, you go back to work first. If you survive the legislature, the children and teachers can go back to school. Surely the legislature has “robust” safety measures in place, like one jug of hand sanitizer per building and two masks per person. If you run out of sanitizer or lose your mask, there’s always Walmart, but you already know that because you shop for school supplies there.

    To Deena Hinshaw, your use of catchphrases like “to be clear” make it clear who’s writing your speeches and prepping your talking points. Never mind, school reopening is on Adriana. You had nothing to do with it.

    To Jason Kenney, we still remember that your popularity is lower than the Covid test positivity rate. We still notice your bungling of the Covid file, your failure to roll out second vaccine doses like other provinces, and your failure to announce a reopening plan. You’ve waited long enough that you could “borrow” some good ideas from premiers who have them. Or are you to busy surveying your kingdom, likely with drones, from your Sky Palace?

    Reply
  5. Caron

    May 20th, 2021

    When the fourth and later fifth wave of Covid-19 mutant-caused deaths roll through Alberta thanks to the Trump followers running Alberta, will they face criminal negligence causing death charges? If they do perhaps they could engage the eloquent American lawyer Albert Watkins who is defending one of the insurrectionists who invaded the Capital building in Washington DC.
    Mr. Watkins is quoted in TPM explaining his client’s behavior by saying:

    “A lot of these defendants — and I’m going to use this colloquial term, perhaps disrespectfully — but they’re all fucking short-bus people,” Watkins told TPM. “These are people with brain damage, they’re fucking retarded, they’re on the goddamn spectrum.”

    Does being voted into office offer a better defense than the devil made me do it? I wonder if the UCP brain trust can get Mr. Watkins on speed dial?
    https://talkingpointsmemo.com/news/capitol-rioters-trump-defense-comes-up-again-and-again-will-it-make-a-difference

    Reply
  6. Mike J Danysh

    May 20th, 2021

    Oh Lord, where to start? Steve Allen needs two more months to lose the report, lose his records and lose the testimony so he can unofficially not deliver the official report. Then Kenney can quietly ignore the deadline to release the never-delivered report to the public—saving himself the absolutely certain humiliation of admitting there was never an anti-Alberta conspiracy. It won’t matter to the Base, they already know they’re victims because they keep telling each other it’s Someone Else’s fault.

    Even Vivian Krause is now saying she was (partly) wrong? Boy oh boy, yet another example of remembering things the way you want them to be. Thank you to Prof. Olszynski for dredging up Krause’s tweets to the contrary. But again, it won’t matter because the Base already knows the Truth.

    Christina Gray calls BS on Kenney’s retaining program. Good on her! Next, she should ask Albertans who’ve regained jobs to tell her how, and whether they got their old jobs back. Better off or worse off? I’m guessing most will answer “Worse.”

    Adriana LaGrange resurfaces to announce the resumption of school, and the resurgence of Covid-19 cases 2 weeks later. Yay. “The end of stay-at-home orders doesn’t mean the pandemic is over. It means there’s room for you in the ICU.”

    Reply
  7. brett

    May 20th, 2021

    This is all about diverting the voter’s attention from things like coal mining on the eastern slopes, covid response, education policy, health care bargaining with doctors, the huge Keystone Pipeline financial loss, fractures in the UCP party.. you name it.

    It is a shell game. Keep moving the pea to confuse the luckless voters.

    Reply
  8. Ken

    May 20th, 2021

    What’s with Dr. Hinshaw’s double-speak? Apparently the schools were closed for “operational reasons” rather than COVID transmission within their walls yet the McMurray schools are staying closed because of COVID rates? Which is it? They do or they don’t contribute to transmission (they almost certainly do as any parent dealing with serial colds throughout the school year knows instinctively).

    Reply
    • Mike J Danysh

      May 20th, 2021

      I think that’s Hinshaw distancing herself from Kenney & the Klowns. Free translation: “This is what the medical science says. What the politicians do with it is their problem, not mine.”

      Reply
  9. Carlos

    May 20th, 2021

    Calling this farce a government is worse than denying climate change.
    It is a real joke unfortunately and one wonders if we will ever recover not just from the pandemic but what mentally this circus has put us all through.

    Reply
  10. hammer

    May 20th, 2021

    I think that AHS and the gang has lost credibility when they stated that schools were not a major factor in transmission. I would like to ask the good doctor, how did my two children get COVID then? Was it not the school that alerted us to the fact that children in multiple classes had contracted it and may have passed it on and to quarantine the family? Was it then the Easter Bunny, stork, Santa or any other fictitious person the culprit, as surely it could not be in class transmission.

    Reply
    • Alan K. Spiller

      May 21st, 2021

      Hammer has it right. My son got it also from his boss who just happened to bring it from home . His son brought it home from his grade 12 class. They were told to get tested and it ended up that 7 people got sick from one carrier. My son really had a hard time with it. A friends daughter did also. She is a nurse , so not surprising that she got it.

      Reply
      • Anonymous

        May 22nd, 2021

        ALAN K. SPILLER: The UCP were talking in doublespeak, and were following their mentor, the pretend conservative, Ralph Klein. The UCP didn’t realize that laying off thousands of educational support workers wouldn’t have any problems. Covid-19 also wouldn’t be a problem in schools, the UCP said. The UCP sold Albertans a bunch of baloney. Frankly, the utter stupidity of the UCP knows no limits.

        Reply
  11. ART

    May 20th, 2021

    What percentage of 12 year and older students have received their first immunization? Any available data?

    Reply
  12. Geoffrey Pounder

    May 20th, 2021

    “That the government’s excuse that the unsuccessful Ecojustice court challenge of the inquiry’s legality … (???) … further strains Mr. Allan’s already diminished credibility.”

    Perhaps I am reading it wrong, but the sentence seems to be ungrammatical: possibly missing a verb or longer phrase.
    E.g., “The government’s excuse that the unsuccessful Ecojustice court challenge of the inquiry’s legality is the reason for this latest delay further strains Mr. Allan’s already diminished credibility.”
    Not sure my version is an improvement — the conclusion does not follow from the premise (non sequitur). The government’s latest excuse diminishes its own credibility. Mr. Allan’s behind closed door public inquiry lost the last vestiges of credibility before it started.

    No need to publish this comment. Just a heads-up that this section might need revision. The rest of the column is terrific.

    Reply
    • David Climenhaga

      May 21st, 2021

      Thanks for pointing this out, Geoffrey. Sounds like I dozed off while I was writing it. I have revised it to approximate what I think I had in mind. DJC

      Reply
  13. Robert Bott

    May 20th, 2021

    Betting when/if it’s finally released, it will be late on the Friday before a long weekend.

    Reply
    • jerrymacgp

      May 23rd, 2021

      Speaking of stuff dropped late on a Friday before a long weekend — known to The West Wing fans as “Take Out the Trash Day” — Alberta Health’s one-woman inquiry (by one Donna Neumann of Windowpane Management) into the notorious 2016 “noose incident” in the OR suite at Grande Prairie’s QE II Hospital dropped on Friday. While her conclusion about the narrow issue of the noose itself is that it wasn’t actually racially motivated, she reports on a pervasive toxic work environment in the OR & Emergency Department at the hospital that has been prevalent for decades. (Surprisingly — or maybe not — the report has since disappeared; fortunately, I already downloaded it …).

      https://open.alberta.ca/publications/inquiry-ministry-of-health-queen-elizabeth-ll-hospital-grande-prairie#summary

      https://youtu.be/-Bn08Ju_eB8

      Reply
  14. Scotty on Denman

    May 20th, 2021

    The Allen Inquiry—the “War Room”—is symbolic hyperbole about a very particular point of view peculiar to UCP propaganda which should have been quietly retired like most political campaign rhetoric often is when the winning party gets down to the administrative part of the government cycle.

    Normal practice is to receive the report commissioned and either shelve it or dump it into a ministry to be bureaucratically smothered, of which Alberta has ten potentials out of nineteen cabinet portfolios— Jobs or Service ministries being among the disqualified for reasons which should be obvious. The Energy ministry would seem the most appropriate resting place, but ever since premier Kenney fingered an animated kids’ movie —featuring a Sasquatch —as instrumental in the alleged conspiracy to “landlock” Alberta’s bitumen —thus in the inquiry’s bailiwick —even the Ministry of Children’s Services has relevant interest.

    However, as the deadline for Commissioner Allen’s report has been extended four times to a date, well past the halfway mark of the UCP’s novice term, the Inquiry has devolved from object of ridicule to butt of derision neither traditional conservatives nor psephological engineers —and most thinking Albertans—would find profitable. Should we expect to hear evidence that Rachel Carson, author of the seminal “Silent Spring” and matriarch of the environmental movement, is in on the plot to smear Alberta energy? (Carson died in 1964, but if Bigfoot can have a file, so can she.) The Inquiry should have been easy to take off the radar soon after the UCP took office in 2019. Why wasn’t it?

    It could’ve been dumped into the Associate Ministry of Red Tape Reduction or even the Military Liaison Office—War Room, and all.

    Heck, the collapse of bitumen prices should have been the easy excuse for trimming unnecessary public spending like this Inquiry. Certainly the Covid pandemic has afforded umpteen excuses to axe the Inquiry, what with all that the emergency entails—oops! Did I accidentally apply the term “emergency” to something other than mental, spiritual, or Bigfoot crises that reputedly concern the UCP’s rural base much more than any dern old flu or pernicious socialist “Plandemic”?

    I suspect it’s a symptom of decline the Western World’s neo-right parties have been reacting to with contingencies dating back to Newt Gingrich, Carl Rove, and George W Bush— whose sub-majority first-term presidency necessitated they be as chauvinistically ultra-partisan and implacably combative as possible. Stephen Harper brought the contagion back to Canada from one of his Canada-slagging engagements at American right-wing think tanks. Thence it hopped to Alberta with KeKangaroo Kenney where it continued its Anglo-Saxmaniacal intercourse concurrently with the presiduncy of Donald J tRump from which it contracted this particularly telling variant: non-stop ultra-partisan campaigning throughout the normally administrative period of governing. Maybe the UCP is kinda stuck with this silly Inquiry. After all, the 2019 election is farther in the rear view mirror than the approaching date with the electorate in 2023 (presuming the fracturing UCP maintains parliamentary confidence until then).

    An analogy might be that once a pack of attack animals has been trained to go for the throats or gonads of whatever its master sicks it on during the bear pit of election campaigns, it remains necessary to feed it red meat in at least the same, if not steadily increasing quantity until the next election campaign—straight through the administrative phase of governing when contentious campaign rhetoric is usually set aside. However, from the point of view of a besieged mentality, the snarling pack must be continually taunted, enraged, and engorged, ready to attack at any instant. It has become the most outstanding feature of the neo-right—a continual indication of moribundity and decline nearing its throes: in short, desperate.

    Reply
    • David Climenhaga

      May 21st, 2021

      I promise to work psephology into a post soon. DJC

      Reply
  15. John Kolkman

    May 20th, 2021

    Has anyone considered writer’s block as an explanation for the repeated delays in completing the report?

    Reply
  16. David

    May 20th, 2021

    There is an inquiry that does need to happen in Alberta – into Kenney and his involvement in the stalking horse candidate he apparently ran in the race for the leadership of the UCP. This would be an inquiry based on something important, and even better, something real. It is not right that the serious malfeasance of which Kenney has been accused in that race should be just swept under the rug. When I saw the headline of this article, I had hoped it would be about that and not the entirely fake political stunt that Kenney is spending tax payer money on. What did Kenney do to win the leadership of the UCP? Why is he still premier?

    Reply
  17. Carlos

    May 20th, 2021

    i can only Imagine what would happen in this province if this inquiry was commissioned by the NDP
    We so called Progressives are so weak on responding to this embarrassment

    Reply
  18. Sub-Boreal

    May 20th, 2021

    In 20 years of teaching, not one of my students has ever asked for more than one extension!

    Reply
  19. Former Albertan

    May 21st, 2021

    Wait, were not Royal Commissions and inquiries supposed to make embarrassing issues go away? If so, is not the Allen inquiry another fine example of Kenney being malice in blunder land. i.e. he wanted the issue of anti-Alberta activities proven, and this inquiry will likely do the exact opposite.

    Oh Jason you are out of your depth, Machiavelli was more than equal to the Pope laddie; do some reading of this fine political strategist. If you can understand what Machiavelli has to offer you, ACT ON IT. But alas I fear you are doomed to return to mum’s rec. room, if you are not there already…

    Reply
  20. Athabascan

    May 22nd, 2021

    Oh, hum.

    These UCP thugs are nothing if not predictable. This is just another scheme and pretext to steal taxpayer money to reward their supporters (aka donors). No new jobs will be created as a result, but you can bet UCP-friendly companies will get the bulk of the money.

    Remember fellow Albertans you voted for this. Just two more years to go, and so much more money left to steal.

    Reply

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