Alberta Politics
Alberta Inquiry Commissioner Steve Allan (Photo: Alberta Order of Excellence).

Dismissed by CBC Ombudsman, Commissioner’s complaint about story shows ‘Alberta Inquiry’ all but down for the count

Posted on October 07, 2021, 2:01 am
7 mins

One Alberta story that didn’t get nearly enough attention in the past few days, and none at all from mainstream media, was Alberta Inquiry Commissioner Steve Allan’s risible complaint to the CBC Ombudsman that the broadcaster’s journalists hadn’t treated him fairly.

Commissioner Allan’s gripe with two CBC investigative reporters, which the broadcaster’s Ombudsman examined in detail and politely dismissed, was that their accurate Jan. 14 account of how his so-called Public Inquiry into Anti-Alberta Energy Campaigns purchased three reports peddling discredited conspiracy theories about climate science didn’t include a disclaimer that he took no position on the papers’ claims.

CBC Ombudsman Jack Nagler (Photo: CBC).

Now, remember, the reports in question were not only commissioned by the Inquiry, with their authors arguably considerably overpaid for their questionable efforts, but they were the only reports paid for by the Kenney Government’s $3.5-million effort to prove a vast conspiracy theory by U.S.-based charities was funding Canadian environmental opposition to oilsands development.

Within hours of Mr. Allen revealing their existence in an “engagement process update” last January, University of Calgary law professor Martin Z. Olszynski publicly tore into them on the U of C Law Faculty’s respected legal-issues blog as “textbook examples of climate change denialism.” 

The bluntly worded story by CBC investigative reporters Jennie Russell and Charles Rusnell thereupon skewered the reports as “junk climate-denial science, bizarre conspiracy theories and oil-industry propaganda” that were part of “a politically motivated witch hunt.”

Those are strong words, but under the circumstances, fair. 

Two of the papers advanced such bonkers theories as the notion scholars who study environmental philanthropy are mostly Marxists, international journalists are plotting together to coordinate and distribute climate change propaganda, and that there’s an environmentalist plot to overthrow “modern western industrial capitalist society.”

Well, if Mr. Allan proved anything, it’s that you can make this stuff up, and be well paid for it too! 

The third report was a fairly standard piece of fossil-fuel-industry spin doctoring by a petroleum industry advocacy organization. That 38-page document relied on common tricks known to all public relations people to give a misleading impression without actually telling any outright lies.

University of Calgary law professor Martin Z. Olszynski (Photo: University of British Columbia).

So it seems a little rich for the Commissioner to be whining about how omission of his meaningless pre-emptive disclaimers saying “the information and opinions expressed in the reports and other content provided to Participants for Commentary do not represent findings or positions taken by the Inquiry” was an unfair assault on the Inquiry’s credibility. 

Mr. Allen argued in his complaint, as CBC Ombudsman Jack Nagler put it, that Ms. Russell and Mr. Rusnell’s reporting “amounted to ‘misrepresentation’ because it ‘failed to accurately capture’ the relationship between the Inquiry and the reports it had commissioned.”

Never mind that the Inquiry spent nearly $100,000 on this nonsense and platformed it to give it considerable credibility. As Mr. Olszynski said at the time, “it is troubling that the Inquiry did not commission any reports from the alternative perspective and, with respect, is suggestive of bias.”

Well, when in retreat, as the Navy used to do, throw smoke! 

Mr. Nagler went on at length – you can read his report for yourself here – to gently dismiss Mr. Allan’s complaint. 

CBC investigative journalist Jennie Russell (Photo: CBC).

“I do not concur with your assertion that the omission of the disclaimers from the original article and the morning radio interview amounted to a misrepresentation of the inquiry’s relationship to the reports,” he wrote mildly. 

After all, he explained, “having been posted before any of the public criticism, (they) could not be deemed a response to that public criticism.”

If the Commissioner wanted them to be considered essential to the story, the disclaimers would have “needed to provide insight into why these particular reports were commissioned.” They did not. 

Mr. Nagler also noted, importantly, that when the reporters asked Inquiry Communications Director Alan Boras for a comment from Mr. Allan or someone else associated with the Inquiry, he declined, and didn’t provide a written statement or any additional information. 

CBC investigative journalist Charles Rusnell (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

When the Inquiry published a statement the next morning, “that made it relevant and essential to report. And CBC did just that, by promptly inserting that information into the story.”

(“You are correct that the inquiry had no obligation to provide an interview or a statement,” Mr. Nagler observed in his response to Mr. Allan. “That does not equate to an obligation that CBC regurgitate whatever you put on your website.”)

Ergo, the Ombudsman concluded: “There was no violation of journalistic standards in either the article, or the radio interview.”

That’ll be the end of that story, I expect, although it illustrates why the Inquiry is discredited before the public has even seen it, and like the premier that commissioned it is all but down for the count.

After five deadline extensions, Mr. Allen handed his homework in to the Alberta government on July 30. Its contents have not yet been made public, although the government says they will be eventually. 

17 Comments to: Dismissed by CBC Ombudsman, Commissioner’s complaint about story shows ‘Alberta Inquiry’ all but down for the count

  1. Roger

    October 7th, 2021

    “… although the government says they will be eventually.” and pigs can fly!

  2. Anonymous

    October 7th, 2021

    The Steve Allan inquiry is nothing more than a bunch of hot air, shadow boxing, and is a grand waste of money. Steve Allan gets $290,000 per year for a redundant posting, while the most needy and the seniors face cuts by the UCP. These pretend Conservatives and Reformers don’t understand what Peter Lougheed did, when he used his oilfield experience to know that oil is a commodity, and it is subjected to boom and bust cycles. What’s more these pretend conservatives and Reformers should in the mirror and and accept that it was their bad policies that robbed Alberta of $575 billion, when they were tampering with Peter Lougheed’s oil royalty rate system, gave Albertans a very massive bill of $260 billion to deal with the abandoned oil wells that inundate Alberta, did bad gambles, like the Redwater upgrader affair, which cost Albertans well beyond $30 billion, (which the UCP pumped more money into the failing project), and threw away $7.5 billion on an assumption that Donald Trump would still be the president of the United States. These pretend conservatives and Reformers also threw away millions and billions more money by giving grants to the petrochemical industry in Alberta, and corporate tax cuts, where no employment came about. The UCP continue to do things to the detriment of Alberta. Where’s the sense in this?

    • Comment

      October 9th, 2021

      Exactly. And it baffles me that there isn’t more outrage over the billions of wasted dollars.

  3. !?

    October 7th, 2021

    Alberta Inquiry Commissioner Steve Allan’s Public Inquiry into Anti-Alberta Energy Campaigns will finally be released on November 10th.

    I have no inside knowledge, but I do have a calendar. This report is so bad it will cause a seismic shift in Kenney’s flailing numbers, and the best time to take out the trash is the Friday afternoon of a long weekend – can’t imagine this crew being dumb enough to release the report on the heels of the CBC Ombudsman efforts over Thanksgiving. The next long weekend is sort of Remembrance Day which falls on a Thursday this year.

  4. Carlos

    October 7th, 2021

    It seems to be difficult for Allan to understand that really – who cares for his report?
    I complete waste of time and money

  5. Mike J Danysh

    October 7th, 2021

    Wouldn’t it have been easier for Mr. Allen to give an interview, and simply whine, “It’s not fair!” Even better to hand in the report, shut up and go back to his–what, accounting?–practice and never, ever again mention the whole fiasco.

  6. Scotty on Denman

    October 7th, 2021

    Great reporting, all round!

    As to the “Public Inquiry into Anti-Alberta Energy Campaigns”, ‘lame’ about covers it. As much as premier Kenney would hate to admit it, he should have taken a lesson from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau who found a way to shit-can his own ill-considered electoral reform process before it became a real embarrassment: Kenney’s “Public Inquiry” could have and should have—and would have been, by any rational government—given a quiet burial like most hyperbolic campaign rhetoric as soon after the election as possible.

    But he couldn’t—maybe still can’t—resist facetious Ottawa nose-thumbing that has gotten puerile enough to cite a children’s animated Sasquatch movie and lodge a separate complaint to the CBC Ombudsman for CBC’s worthy coverage of this ridiculous boondoggle. One wonders if the venerable national broadcaster was similarly singled out for another snotty flavour of Kenney nose-thumbing because it’s an evil federal institution from which he’d like to hive-off his own, pure, UCP-friendly Alberta Broadcasting Corporation or because hardly a single other mainstream news medium deigned to cover this exorbitant silliness (the idea of Commissioner Allen carrying K-Boy’s boogers is disturbing, indeed, during a virulent pandemic which is plaguing the Wild Rose province worse than any other Canadian jurisdiction except NWT —whose Arctic shores a Wexitized Alberta would love to annex and pipe dilbit to. Coincidence?)

    The big question now is whether there’ll be a sixth, sandbagging draft of the Commissioner’s ‘final’ or, perhaps, ‘revised’ or ‘re-revised’ report in order to postpone its embarrassing public revelation while the UCP government is already so thoroughly mortified by its disastrous handling of the Covid scourge. Surely the report’s gonna be buried one way or another.

  7. tom in ontario

    October 7th, 2021

    “…none at all from the mainstream media…”
    We commoners must keep in mind that Postmedia, Globe and the rest consider news to be what they say it is. My Postmedia morning paper today ran a column straight from the Fraser Institute claiming that raising taxes on the top hat cohort is oh so unfair. Yup, that’s news.

  8. Bob Nichol

    October 7th, 2021

    NOBODY expects the Allen Inquiry.
    Our main weapon is delay and intimidation.
    Our TWO main weapons are delay, intimidation and deliberate misinformation.
    Our THREE main weapons are delay, intimidation, deliberate misinformation and an almost-fanatical devotion to the Premier.
    Our FOUR main weapons… Wait, I’ll come in again.

  9. Dave

    October 7th, 2021

    Mr. Allan must have had a terrible sense of buyers remorse for the nearly $100,000 he spent if he had to put such disclaimers up regarding the reports. Could you imagine someone say buying a luxury car and then putting a sign up in the window of it that “the owner takes no responsibility for it”? If you are spending that much, you might want to be confident the brakes, the steering and the rest works properly, unless you are buying some antique and you plan to take responsibility to fix it up and put it in working order before taking it out on the road.

    So … no responsibility here. It is also interesting the reports all slanted in one direction, presumably that was a deliberate choice or decision by Mr. Allan. Now I suppose he is free to spend his budget (well actually our money) within whatever guidelines, if any, given to him by the government. However, given it is public money, so we are also free to question the process and if any value has been received for it. If Mr. Allan went to this length to try disassociate himself from these reports he paid such a great deal of money for, it leads me to question their value even more.

  10. Neil Lore

    October 7th, 2021

    I’ve heard many disrespectful things said about Alberta and Albertans over this particular bit of idiocy. I don’t think any of those people disrespect Albertans half as much as their conservative politicians do. Who is the last conservative premiere who didn’t treat Albertans like a bunch of know nothing rubes?

    When every last cent of their money was spent,
    The Fix-It-Up Chappie packed up and he went.
    And he laughed in his car as he drove down the beach,
    “They never will learn. No, you can’t teach a Sneech.”

  11. Just Me

    October 7th, 2021

    This is what happens when Premier Crying & Screaming Midget’s “Truman Show” distorted reality gets a bug in its own Matrix.

    Reality has never been Kenney’s strong suit. His whole leadership bid for the UCP was built on hair brained conspiracy theories mascarade as policy. When those policies were put into action, the gaslighting had to be turned up. And as everyone who gaslights should know, you can only gaslight for so long before everyone sees the fraud. That’s unless the gaslighter has managed to gaslight themselves.

    This inquiry was built on the flimsiest of claims and hoaxes. It was nothing more than a scam to enrich West and perhaps some industry hangers-on. $2M+ blown on a conspiracy fantasy unrealized.

    • old prophet

      October 7th, 2021

      “Flimsiest of claims and hoaxes” perhaps even delusions. There is mental health condition known as “Delusional Disorder” “Delusional disorder, previously called paranoid disorder, is a type of serious mental illness — called a “psychosis”— in which a person cannot tell what is real from what is imagined. The main feature of this disorder is the presence of delusions, which are unshakable beliefs in something untrue.Jan. 22, 2018”

  12. Former Albertan

    October 7th, 2021

    The report is the world’s most expensive Saturday morning cartoon. Just not as funny. Only Premier stumble n’ bumble could produce it. Waste of money.

  13. e.a.f.

    October 8th, 2021

    and they expected others to just accept the “report” as the truth???

    Some of these Albertans who kiss Kenny’s ring might want to get a grip while they can. Perhaps they’re just getting ready to move to the oil industry. In the middle of a climate change crisis you’d think they could do better.

  14. jerrymacgp

    October 9th, 2021

    Yet another reason for conservatives to hate the CBC: it refuses to buy into the UCP’s baseless conspiracy theory, or act as a propaganda arm of the government. For the sake of freedom of the media in this country, let’s all hope we never see another Conservative majority government in Ottawa again. They would gut the Holy Mother Corp like a shot deer in November.


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