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

Has Steve Allan finally gotten around to starting work looking into whether that supposed environmental conspiracy that became an issue during the 2019 Alberta election campaign is an actual thing? Or what?

Late last week, Albertans learned the forensic accountant from Calgary who leads the so-called Public Inquiry into Anti-Alberta Energy Campaigns had notified 40 organizations he’d like to chat with them about his work to date, such as it may be.

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney (Photo: Alberta Newsroom/Flickr).

In a Friday afternoon news release from the inquiry, Commissioner Allan said “about 40 organizations are being sent confidential Notices asking for their response to potential findings of the Inquiry that pertain specifically to each of them.” (Emphasis added.)

So whatever the heck Mr. Allan has been up to until now other than receiving four extensions and a substantial cash infusion since the inquiry was announced with great fanfare in July 2019 remains about as clear as mud.

Well, we know he paid too much for a trio of tendentious screeds described by observers as “textbook examples of climate change denialism,” and that he took a nice mid-pandemic break in Palm Springs. But other than that, pffft!

The bits of homework he’ll be handing around are a secret. So are the identities of the 40 or so organizations he says he’s contacted. Remember, this is supposedly a public inquiry.

“The formal Notices sent to individual organizations grants them standing as a Participant for Response, which is the second phase of the Inquiry Engagement Process,” says the news release, which in addition to a 19th Century approach to capitalization is rich in bureaucratic gobbledygook. “Participants for Response may include an individual, group, organization, society, government, agency, institution, body corporate or other entity.”

“The potential findings, the related evidence and the material that will provide the context for considering a potential finding will be made accessible in a secure dataroom platform (the Dataroom),” Mr. Allan said in his letter to the unidentified recipients. “Any potential finding is based on this available information and I will not make any finding in respect of you until I have had an opportunity to consider and analyze any submissions you make in this process.”

I guess that’s supposed to cover the commission’s collective butt on the legal requirement to let people and groups the commissioner intends to criticize, and who up to now he’s failed to contact, rebut his claims.

Vancouver blogger Vivian Krause (Photo: Vivian Krause/Facebook).

“The Notice informed Participants that the materials made available to them are provided on the basis that they are confidential, are not to be disclosed and may only be used for the purposes of the Inquiry unless and until they become part of the public record,” the release went on. “Release of the materials prior to their inclusion, if at all, in the Final Report may result in prejudice or harm to parties who may not be subject to a finding in the Final Report.”

That could be seen as a threat, or as a lure to get organizations to lend a little legitimacy to Mr. Allan’s efforts by responding to something that deserves to be ignored, presumably on the grounds that if they don’t they won’t be able to sue the inquiry later.

It’s not clear Mr. Allan has the power to order any such thing.

For all we know now, and may ever know, the allegations that are being shared are nothing more than bait in a fishing expedition.  It remains to be seen if any fish are biting.

The conspiracy theory that big American corporations and foundations were bankrolling Canadian environmental charities to achieve a market advantage over their supposedly more ethical Canadian counterparts was at the heart of premier Jason Kenney’s successful crusade to unite the right, drive the Alberta NDP from power, and restore Conservative rule in Wild Rose Country.

So as a political gimmick, it has to be acknowledged as a success.

Since there was never really any evidence for that proposition, though, Mr. Allan’s real job appears to have been to come up with some evidence. Whatever he’s been doing for the past two years, he doesn’t seem to have had much success beyond getting time extensions and that increase in his budget to $3.5 million.

Last month, the Vancouver blogger generally credited by the premier and media with the theory announced she has never accused environmental organizations of being used by U.S. interests to landlock Canadian bitumen. They were just looking out for the environment, Vivian Krause said she thought all along, which is sort of what you’d expect environmental organizations to do.

So, if Ms. Krause didn’t come up with the theory once taken as gospel on the Alberta right, who did? Maybe Mr. Allan could look into that mystery too.

Even before Ms. Krause spoke up, the Allan inquiry appeared to be in trouble.

Friday’s confusing announcement does nothing to alter that impression.

This time the inquiry’s report is due on July 30.

What do you want to bet the Kenney Government decides to “study” it for a long, long time after that? Certainly until after the next provincial election.

Join the Conversation


  1. I have no doubt that if there’s a secret, it’s hidden under Steve Allan’s white ten-gallon hat, and it’s a hell of a secret.

    This inquiry was the showpiece of Premier Crying & Angry Midget’s entire election campaign in 2019, announcing that he was determined to smoke out the enemies of Alberta and punish every last one of them.

    So, where are we now?

    Steve Allan announced that he has begun confidential correspondence with forty unnamed organizations. Maybe they’ll work with the inquiry, and maybe they won’t; but if anything is mentioned, all content will be confidential and not for public eyes. This sounds like a higher concept version of the “Dog Ate My Homework” excuse. Better yet, an invisible and unnamed dog ate my homework, but that’s not certain because everything is held in confidence. So, buzz off!

    And to top it all off, Vivian Krause, the person who declared that there was a vast international conspiracy of environmentalists out to get Alberta, now says that she never said such a thing. Krause may have learned a thing or two about gaslighting since 2019, but it seems like she’s trying to snuff out her own gas now.

    But, hey … the Best Alberta Summer of Vast Carnage and Extreme Disappointment is starting July 1st. Kenney has been boasting about his brilliance, and it seems that all the angry replies about the restrictions on his FB posts have been replaced by fawning declarations of his infinite intelligence and courage. I guess UCP issues managers’ troll farm work is never done.

    1. Just Me: A point of clarification. Mr. Allen’s hat is not white, it’s silverbelly. It’s an Open Road model by Stetson, by the look of it, and would carry only about four quarts, unless you subscribe the theory that gallon is a corruption of galon, or hatband. Whatever. He’s had someone steam the brim a bit. Whatever we may think of his work as commissioner, it’s a nice hat. DJC

    2. I think Ms. Krause has always been very careful about how she phrased her commentary. It would be fair to say cagey. But as far as I can tell, she never actually said what she says she never said. Also as far as I can tell, she never corrected anyone who interpreted her remarks as sayin g what everyone thought she had said, until recently when the Inquiry started to come unravelled. DJC

      1. Being fair to Allan or Krause is, obviously. not in my DNA.

        As for myself, I prefer to be noted as being pompous, unfair, and enormously pretentious.

        As for Allan’s hat, cowboy hats are fine, if you have a tiny pointed head.

      2. Yes, the fact is that everyone who was convinced by her presentations walked away thinking she was taking about a conspiracy underwritten by US oil interests, and she never spoke up to correct them. I’m sure she’s sickened by how much money and effort has been expended on behalf of a tragic misinterpretation of her research…

      3. Exactly, thank you for clarifying this. The tar sands campaign has publicly stated their objective was to landlock AB crude so it would grab a lower price than what it could on international markets. She may have alluded to the possibility that US interests may be involved, but it was never a full blown accusation. She only defended herself when lefty journalists from canadian Press and globe and mail came after her for clarifying that stance on a podcast.

        Definitely a bit comical that they would come after her for that instead of trying to debunk her actual claims.

  2. I came across a study done years ago that proved that Albertans were 42% more likely to be fooled by politicians than other Canadians and I certainly believe it. Ralph Klein treated them like morons and he was their hero and Kenney is doing it once again. My senior friends and I find it hard to believe how stupid many of our fellow seniors are. Although the retired RCMP members in our group aren’t. They had to deal with these ignorant seniors who allowed con artists to steal their life savings.

    While Mr. Allan plays his mind games with the support of Kenney with these fools I doubt he cares whether he ever proves anything. As long as he can drag it out , Kenney will keep filling his pockets with our money.

    A retired oilman I met said it best “ Why would anyone be dumb enough to believe that foreign corporations are destroying our oil industry, when our oil industry are foreign corporations stealing our oil wealth and the stupid Albertans are letting them do it”.

    When reporters asked Klein why Alberta was broke and Norway and Alaska weren’t Klein created the lie that it was because we have had to send billions of dollars to Ottawa and Quebec in the form of equalization payments and these fools believed him. Those of us from the world of finance couldn’t make them understand that Alberta has never paid a penny to anyone in the form of equalization. Klein was their hero and Kenney is still using this lie and many are still believing it. One guy was encouraging people to vote this fall on equalization. He is just too dumb to realize that it’s Kenney making a fool of him.

    1. Alan, I can’t cite my source offhand (the Guardian and the Tyee are always good bets), but psychologists have learned that many people form strong opinions based on the FIRST information they see–and then look for more of the same as confirmation. They ignore newer information when it contradicts their first impression, even though “new research has proven” we’ve learned more since then.

      There’s also the “Not My Fault” syndrome (my phrase, and a psychologist would probably cringe). If it’s all too big for me to change it, then it’s Not My Fault–therefore it must be Somebody Else’s.

      What we can do to overcome these mental habits is beyond me. I usually walk away from the bloviator, and vent on DJC’s blog (another form of confirmation bias!).

    2. ALAN K. SPILLER: What you said is correct, but there are Albertans, young and old, who fell for Ralph Klein’s lies. I know people who think Ralph Klein got Alberta out of debt. He didn’t do such a thing, and he just passed the costs of his negligence onto other provincial governments in Alberta.

  3. Alberta’s Best Summer Ever includes the updated Salem witch trials. Good to know. Are ticket packages included in the LottoVaxx prize pot? Buck the line passes especially might be a draw. A certain poster here is going to need a lot more popcorn, which should pop easily when the witches are burned at the stake.

    1. My popcorn menu has recently expanded to include kettle corn, ole skool CrackerJacks, and some delightful confection called “Boom Chick-a-Pop”. The latter is highly recommended, and is my shameless endorsement of the week.

  4. I believe that by now most voters see this for what it is and what it was intended to be. A complete sham. No doubt Mr. Allan is embarrassed and regrets the day he got sucked into the Kenney abyssal lying and finger pointing.

    Waste of time and money all to take voter’s attention away from the issues. We have yet to see if Kenney can fool all of the people all of the time. So far he is certainly not doing that within his own UCP Party.

    1. Brett, I’d say that 70.2% see through this stupid posturing. You know, the ones smart enough to get the Covid jab.

  5. How does Jason KeKangaroo Kenney get governing so wrong? He really is a King Merde-ass: everything he touches turns into a cow patty. Granted, his party is new and his government only a couple years old—it hopes it might learn in time (earworm alert! Steppenwolf’s “Jupiter Child”). But the NDP (granted, a much older party) was manifold better at its own maiden voyage in government—and at a fraction the cost(s).

    But when you think about K-Boy’s political raising, it becomes clear that it’s been, from the very beginning (he’s had no other vocation), a propagator of neo-right tropes typical of election campaigns: entirely partisan with a six-hundred horsepower golf cart emblazoned with rally stripes and flames that fishtails all over the course, rutting in fairways, tearing up greens, and caring little, even in the rough. We woke up one morning in 2015 to what appeared to be an evening of drunken vandalism on the links, senseless and crazy. And even though Canadians voted in the HarperCons among which cabinet was the young virgin Kenney, when it was all over we looked at the damages of nine holy years aghast and asked ourselves: why?

    Recalling now that the HarperCon Dark Age was preoccupied with electoral envy, covetousness, and jealousy, obsessed with winning at any cost (the CPC was busted cheating a number of times and, like a certain US presidunce happily now retired, simply doubled down each time until worn down in parliament by the Loyal NDP Opposition and finally routed at the polls by the Liberal Adonis), we perspect how little governing was actually done (Harper’s first of two minorities, for example, featured the lowest legislative production rate in Canadian history) and how much sabotage was perpetrated and reported to American backers who approved Harper’s slagging his own county’s socialist nanny-state, applauded his destruction of public assets like the Crown Atomic agency, the trashing of public scientific archives and ecological installations, the breaking of StatCan’s chain of statistical custody, the hiring of “temporary foreign workers” and party propagandists in public pay, and so much more that, all told, had little to do with governing for or by the citizens of Canada. Another measure would be the nearly unbroken string of policy failures, either shit-canned by the SCoC, stymied by Occupy, Idle-No-More, and treatyless First Nations of British Columbia, and told where to stuff diluted bitumen pipelines by America’s first Black President. In short, the HarperCon tutors of the young Mr K did a lot of damage but failed to get their centrepiece “petroleum superpower” project done.

    So in this light it’s not surprising that, after leaving Ottawa, Kenney continued the only political tactics he ever knew when he returned to Alberta by copying, as it happened, Donald tRump’s playbook and campaigning nonstop after the 2019 election was over—instead of governing. The K-Boy got his very own pipeline smack-down America’s first truly geriatric President. Jason’s arc has been seamless, if nothing else.

    The “War Room” Inquiry into patently false allegations that American oil interests are trying to beggar Alberta’s bitumen industry by funding environmental opposition in Canada might be a masterful stroke of partisan hardball during a campaign period where that kind of thing is tolerated. But anybody who knows anything about actually governing would have quickly wound it up—a short report received and shelved as per usual, tried and true political practice, or a low level hack or two assuring us full attention to the matter in some stuffy bureaucratic basement in some government building with appropriate mold, dust and asbestos pipe-lagging. I think the single biggest proof that the UCP really doesn’t know how to govern is the fact that this Inquiry keeps stirring like a rat under the carpet, the cabinet seeming to keep the damning embarrassment alive, presumably for the next election campaign—which of course is ongoing in Alberta instead of grappling with real issues like Covid and the quickening paradigm shift away from dirty petroleum—that is, instead of governing.

    It’s as if Kenney, through some kind of myopia or willful redaction of history, doesn’t acknowledge that the same dependence on constant partisan jousting he’s repeating in Alberta is what got the HarperCon government sacked, prosecuted, disgraced, and rendered down to a schismatic party seething with extremists and thrashing in its throes.

    It’s halftime and all K-Boy’s got is it’s going to be the best summer EVER as the province opens up to welcome the new Delta variant of Covid into the biggest super-spreader stampede in the country while its single biggest industry coughs and wheezes as if it’s caught the Pi variant?

    That’s not governing and K-Boy’s gone have some ‘splaining to do.

    It’s really astounding.

    Stay safe, my Alberta friends!

  6. There is only one conclusion to be drawn from this affair. The Kenney led UCP thinks we’re all idiots.

  7. Secretive and public seems kind of contradictory. I suppose Mr. Allan does not get that part. Perhaps he is waiting for his law degree in the mail and will become more insightful about all this after it arrives, or maybe Sally Struthers is busy with other things and will sadly not get around to sending it any time soon.

    In any event, I suspect you are right and Kenney will spend a lot of time “studying” the inquiry report after it is finally finishef, at least until it “accidentally” gets shredded and is permanently lost. Mr. Kenney, in his weasely way, will of course brazenly claim he kept his promise which to hold the inquiry. I don’t know if he actually promised anything useful would come of it.

    Mr. Allan will probably end his flirtation with a legal career right after the inquiry ends. Perhaps he will go back to doing something next to nothing, but different than the day before, except he will likely call it retirement instead.

    1. Dave: As noted in the story, Mr. Allan is a forensic accountant, not a lawyer. DJC

      1. DJC: I think commenter Dave did not assert that Mr Allen is a lawyer, just that he’s trying to become one … at least, that’s my reading of “waiting for his law degree [to arrive] in the mail” …

  8. To summarize all this, as I understand it, from the man in the cowboy hat to the people/groups/etc targeted:

    “You may potentially have engaged in Traitorous unAlbertan Activities contrary to the Gospel of Our Beloved Leader, the Apostle Jason.
    Here is your package of The Potential Findings about your Alleged Anti-Alberta Actions, as defined in the Gospel. These Potential Findings I have collected by way of a bunch of rumours and gossip. Read them over. If you cannot disavow these Potential Findings to My Complete Satisfaction by the middle of next week, these Potential Findings will become Permanent Findings against you in the Final Report of the Privatized Public Enquiry I head. Public shaming will then follow. Remember, you cannot sue a Public Enquiry or those who constitute its staff. The Final Report is due out on July 31. It will be printed in full colour on glossy paper stock and will be suitable for Coffee Table Display. The frontispiece is a portrait of our Dear Leader in Full Stampede Regalia. It’ll be a best-seller! Book your ad space now if you support Ethical Ersatz Oil!”

    1. Bill: I don’t think the door is closed on suing the Allan Inquiry. Despite Ecojustice’s lack of success getting an injunction to stop the inquiry in its tracks, as far as I know the challenge to its legality under the Public Inquiries Act continues. If the inquiry was conducted in violation of its own legislation, there may well be grounds for a defamation suit. Some major eco-NGOs have said they will sue if they are defamed. I suspect they stand a decent chance in court – and, moreover, even if they lose they win, as they’ll have the opoprtunity to discredit the inquiry, and possibly cross-examine Mr. Allan and others. The commissioner may even face some personal liability. There is a long game to be played here, and some people may be of a mind to play it. DJC

  9. I just have to shake my cranium when I see such buffoonery going on. The UCP are are pushing the baloney meter to new limits. Albertans are the ones who are paying for this never ending saga of finding a boogeyman. If a youngster was in school, and was assigned a report on a particular topic, such as how glass is made, and the teacher said the report is due on March 1st, could the youngster keep delaying the assignment? Most likely, the answer is no. If a boss wanted an employee to complete a task by a certain deadline, could the employer get away with delaying the completion of the task, time after time? I doubt that, because the employee would be fired. The UCP is also in denial about the environment, protecting it, and this shows on different fronts. The UCP isn’t properly handling the matter of the abandoned oil wells that inundate Alberta, and the $260 billion that Albertans have to come up with to fix this decades old problem, which was instigated by Ralph Klein. When Ralph Klein let the oil industry in Alberta get taken over by foreign interests, any holding of them to account for environmental damages was basically terminated. The UCP is also doing a bang up job of dealing with the open pit coal mining matter in the Rockies. Both of these issues wouldn’t be a problem if Peter Lougheed was the premier of Alberta. In fact, Peter Lougheed was very disgusted when he saw how Ralph Klein was looking after the oil industry in Alberta. So, the environment is no big deal? It very well has to be, for all of us. There are scorching temperatures in different regions of the United States, as well as in the interior of British Columbia right now. This is going to lead to other problems. Watch out for more wildfires. The UCP also seems to be very complacent regarding oil being a commodity. 7 years ago, oil prices took a nosedive. It’s not likely that we will be experiencing record setting oil prices anymore. Another inconvenient pair of truths for the leader of Alberta on the anti oilsands and anti pipeline matters. The premier of Alberta was in the CPC, in different cabinet posts, and the CPC were actually inadvertently funding anti pipeline groups nearly 10 years ago. 6 years ago, when the CPC were in the last stages of a majority government, then Prime Minister of Canada, Stephen Harper, was in attendance at a global climate forum, and had stated that the oilsands had to be phased out by a certain juncture. Does the premier of Alberta not recall his former boss saying that? The UCP are running a gong show. It’s quite embarrassing, to say the least.

  10. I recall back when I first encountered the then ascendant young and pristine virginal Jason Kenney, he was in the company of a number of other young, all male, conservative hacks. What struck me about this bunch was that they were all former Liberals of one party affiliation or another. While there were many who thought, and believed, the claims that these were former-Liberals who saw the light and came to Conservative Jesus (AKA. Newt Gingrich) I felt they were nothing more than grifters moving onto another partisan scam because they were not capable enough to profit from the mainstream parties’ avarice. (Liberals and PCs just rotate their positions at the same trough.)

    This was brought to light quite nicely by one of those young Mike Harris Ontario Conservatives, who came to Calgary to work for the RPC. (I remember he was originally from somewhere near St. Catherines, so he really did think that Calgary was civilized.) During a few socials with him and others of his ilk, it became clear that, while they wear ideological stripes as team colours, they were really in politics for the “goodies”. The goodies were money, influence, money, power, more money, girls, and alcohol. In other words, for this youthful and misbehaving crowd, politics was like being in a rock band, where getting away with bad behaviour was de rigeur. They were, in reality no more than vandals.

  11. “A retired oilman I met said it best “ Why would anyone be dumb enough to believe that foreign corporations are destroying our oil industry, when our oil industry are foreign corporations stealing our oil wealth and the stupid Albertans are letting them do it”.”
    Colour me curious for a moment: [I shall admit ignorance when called on it] Since fracked oil in the Excited States is not suitable for refining diesel, which is absolutely necessary for the transport of almost all goods in that country and Canada, and tar sands dilbit is quite suitable for diesel refining, why would anyone consider not wanting tar sands dilbit being shipped to U.S. refineries? And since Venezuelan heavy oil is sanctioned, all the more need for tar sands dilbit to mix with fracked stuff to get diesel. Saudi heavy oil is more costly to ship across half a world too, even though cheaper at source. And Mexican heavy is quickly depleting.

  12. They spent $3,500,000 and all they got is a shoebox full of newspaper clippings and some crackpot conspiracy theories. So they call it a “Data Room” and say it is confidential for your own safety, because you may be harmed by the contents pertaining specifically to you.

    (The EcoJustice lawsuit was dismissed because the Inquiry is only providing recommendations and not actually implementing :
    Now they are saying the process will do harm unless we submit to their gag order.)

    So they are admitting that their findings might be less than accurate, and could change as a result of your response. But if it is pertaining specifically to you, then you should be the one to decide to publish them.

    It will be interesting to see which organizations get these Notices, and what is the exact wording of the confidentiality conditions. Some of these groups may be open and democratic and keep no secrets from their membership.

  13. Sir Allen the Secretive has finally sent invitations to those nasty tree-hugging, oil-hating, Alberta-bashing NGOs to explain themselves. Or we’re led to believe so, anyway. If so, it’s the second time around. It took half a year for him to not interview the NGOs for the first interim report.

    That may not have made much difference though. Turned out, the interim report hadn’t been fact-checked because the inquiry staff was too busy.

    By late September 2020, some at least of the NGOs had received their first invitations to become Kenney’s new punching bag, courtesy of Mr. Allen—and refused:

    We’ll skip over the legal challenges to the rationalization behind the inquiry, except to say that the judge’s decision to quash the challenge looks suspect to a non-lawyer like me.

    Now, back to the suddenly-issued “invitations” with barely five weeks left before the latest “deadline.” Forty unidentified entities have a week or so to rebut the rumours, innuendo and probable slander spewed their way. Given that the “staff” of Allen’s inquiry (Steve himself and a part-time secretary? Maybe a full office staff with archival librarians to hunt for documents? We may never know.) couldn’t fact check the hundred(s) of documents submitted, when did they find time to sort them, label them and post the bundles on a secure web site? And how the heck can they fact-check the replies, if any, if they couldn’t de-bullshit the original submissions in four months or more? This looks like a poorly-disguised attempt to cut off input by the alleged perps—because “alleged” is all they ever were.

    As for Ms. Krause—her new “I didn’t say that” defense may be correct, under a legalistic “rules-of-evidence” interpretation. But she never tried to correct anyone, MSM or otherwise, who misinterpreted her weasel-worded innuendo. For example, see this article from The Pipeline magazine, dated 25 June 2019:

    So where is all this going? To court, I hope. We’ll see if Lord Jason, Court Jester of Oilberduh’s Barons of Oil, will make ol’ Steve rewrite the conclusion from “I didn’t find anything” to “It’s all their fault.” If so, Ecojustice et al will have a pretty good chance of suing.

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