Alberta Politics
Environmental Defence Canada Executive Director Tim Gray (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

Alberta premier’s lawyers to eight environmental groups: You’ll have our answer soon to your demand for an apology

Posted on December 03, 2021, 12:39 am
6 mins

If Jason Kenney’s lawyers give him sensible advice, they’ll tell him to seek a compromise with the coalition of eight environmental groups that threatened last month to sue him if he doesn’t retract and apologize for statements they say defame them. 

That could save Alberta’s premier a lot of grief and us Albertan taxpayers a lot of money. 

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

But it’s not very likely the advice Mr. Kenney wants to hear, or what he’d be inclined to think is the most politically effective course of action, so he’ll probably opt for an expensive legal fight. Why not? Chances are small he’ll be the one who ends up having to pay the bill. 

Yesterday, Tim Gray, executive director of Environmental Defence Canada, told AlbertaPolitics.ca that “we have received a letter from a private law firm that the premier has retained stating that a response to us will be forthcoming soon.”

A lawyer for the eight environmental groups – which in addition to Environmental Defence are the Dogwood Initiative, Greenpeace Canada, Raincoast Conservation Foundation, Sierra Club Canada Foundation, Sierra Club of British Columbia Foundation, West Coast Environmental Law and Research Foundation, and the Western Canada Wilderness Committee – wrote Mr. Kenney on Nov. 22 to advise him of their intention to sue for statements he made after the release of the report of the $3.5-million “Public Inquiry into Anti-Alberta Energy Campaigns” if he refuses to apologize and retract.

Ottawa lawyer Paul Champ’s letter concluded: “We look forward to your response by no later than Tuesday, November 30, 2021.”

However, Mr. Gray said in his email yesterday, “Our legal team feels that we should give them some time to review the material etc. and respond to us about how the premier intends to address our concerns.”

Also yesterday, Mr. Champ told the Canadian Press that “we fully expect Premier Kenney will get solid advice on this matter.” 

“Assuming the premier follows this advice, we expect to see those posts taken down with an apology,” he added.

Ottawa lawyer Paul Champ (Photo: Champlaw.ca).

The eight environmental groups argue comments about the Inquiry’s findings published by the Government of Alberta on its Alberta.ca website claimed falsely the report of Commissioner Steve Allan “confirms the existence of well-funded foreign interests that have been waging a decade-long campaign of misinformation.”

Those statements were “repeated and amplified by you on social media platforms Facebook and Twitter,” the letter said. 

“The Alberta government’s new Inquiry website also repeats the false claim that Commissioner Allan confirmed the existence of ‘campaigns based on misinformation’ that have ‘impacted the lives and livelihoods of Albertans’ and ‘cost Albertans and Canadians thousands of jobs,’” the letter added. 

“These statements are defamatory as they assert that our clients have spread ‘misinformation.’ Implying or stating that a person is deliberately untruthful has been found by many courts to be defamatory,” it continued. “Your statements were designed to undermine the Groups’ reputations and credibility in the eyes of the public by falsely asserting that the Alberta Inquiry found that the Groups were spreading misinformation.

Alberta Inquiry Commissioner J. Stephens “Steve” Allan (Photo: Lieutenant Governor of Alberta).

“Premier Kenney, you are doubtless fully aware that the Alberta Inquiry makes no such finding. In fact, Commissioner Allan is clear throughout his report that he could not make any finding or suggestion that ‘any information disseminated by any organization is false or misleading,’” the letter said. “Notwithstanding the Commissioner’s unequivocal statements, you and your government falsely proclaim the Inquiry found that the Groups were involved in a ‘decade-long campaign of misinformation.’”

The letter demands the province delete all reference to misinformation on the Alberta.ca website, retract and remove similar statements made by the premier on Facebook and Twitter, and publish an apology on Mr. Kenney’s Facebook and Twitter accounts “expressly confirming that the Alberta Inquiry states in its final report that it did not make any finding or suggestion that any information disseminated by any organization is false or misleading.”

In late November, the Premier’s Office responded defiantly to the legal threat. “We will of course vigorously respond in court, if and when necessary,” a spokesperson said at that time.

18 Comments to: Alberta premier’s lawyers to eight environmental groups: You’ll have our answer soon to your demand for an apology

  1. CovKid

    December 3rd, 2021

    It’s too bad that these legal bills don’t come out of Kenney’s own substantial pockets. After all, he’s living in his mother’s basement, drinks Jameson’s on the public dime and will soon assume healthy pensions from Canada and Alberta.

    He won’t care which way this suit ends because, as per Trump, he’ll deny anything.

    P.S. Typo re: 30 Nov.2012 (I hope, which means that Kenney may have been up to these shenanigans for longer than I thought.)

    Reply
  2. Dave

    December 3rd, 2021

    Yeah, Kenney should probably apologize, as soon as possible – rip off the bandage to avoid prolonging the pain. Deep down he knows it and his well paid, presumably smart legal advisors have probably told him so too.

    Well, as many have figured out, Kenney is not one for generally doing the smart thing when he has dug himself into a big hole. So, I wouldn’t be surprised if a stubborn streak, or pride causes him to continue to dig in his heels.

    I suspect he is the type of client that exasperates legal advisors. However, I suppose they can take some comfort they will probably have plenty of billable hous if he continues fighting here. At least for now, he has the financial resources of the provincial government to back him up.

    Reply
  3. Anonymous

    December 3rd, 2021

    These pretend conservatives and Reformers in the UCP are making a mockery out of Alberta. Canadians and others from around the world are laughing at us. There is nothing that is funny about paying big costs for the blatant stupidity of these pretend conservatives and Reformers. We don’t have the true conservatives, like we had under Peter Lougheed.

    Reply
  4. Philip Akin

    December 3rd, 2021

    It says “your response by no later than Tuesday, November 30, 2012.”

    But I think it should be 2021

    Reply
    • David Climenhaga

      December 3rd, 2021

      It’s been fixed. Thanks for noting this. Transposing the last two digits in 2021 has been a problem for me all year. I do it on my cheques, too. I’m anticipating that it won’t be a problem in 2022, although the occasional 1922 may show up. DJC

      Reply
  5. Bill Malcolm

    December 3rd, 2021

    Seems to me that kenney is backed into a logical corner without a leg to stand on. Only by lying again can he mount any defence whatsoever, though no doubt teams of lawyers are trying to work out something, anything, for the man to say that mitigates the blow he inflicted on himself by saying publicly the opposite of what Commissioner Allan said in his report. Is there any more to this situation than that? In practical terms, because delaying tactics to actually appearing in court will be part and parcel of kenney’s “defence”, the question it seems to me is whether he can be personally pursued to change his tune even if booted from office one way or the other. I should think if he decides to quit Alberta and inflict himself on the Canadian body politic instead, he comes equipped with a bullseye firmly planted on his person for any political opponent to lob easy potshots at. A sitting duck of a very sad man indeed.

    Reply
    • David Climenhaga

      December 3rd, 2021

      Bill: My guess is the premier’s lawyers will bring forward a number of fanciful arguments about why the case should not be allowed to proceed. Allow me to suggest a few: The government website is covered by Parliamentary immunity and therefore enjoys an absolute privilege; ditto the premier’s social media accounts; Mr. Kenney was speaking in his official capacity as premier of Alberta and therefore enjoys a qualified privilege; the head offices of most of the organizations are in another province and therefore something-something; banks, corporations, unions and co-operatives may have all been granted the right by the courts to use defamation laws as if they were natural persons, but environmental charities have not, so they can’t sue; the province of Alberta has ceased doing business under that name and no one was there to answer the door when the process server showed up; the premier was doing business on behalf of the Crown and if they want to sue someone, they’ll have to sue the Queen, and that wouldn’t be nice because she’s an old lady; etc. etc. Seriously, they will try to drag the proceedings out, hoping they will run out of steam sometime after the next election. DJC

      Reply
  6. Abs

    December 3rd, 2021

    What is the term for “picking fights you’ll inevitably lose”?

    Reply
    • lungta

      December 3rd, 2021

      masochism?

      Reply
    • Scotty on Denman

      December 3rd, 2021

      “Foolhardy”

      Reply
    • Athabascan

      December 4th, 2021

      It’s called job creation for conservative lawyer friends.

      Reply
  7. Just Me

    December 3rd, 2021

    After a period of time, Kenney looked like he was apologizing for a lot of things. Maybe it was a new leaf?

    But with these lawsuits, Premier Crying & Screaming Midget is back doubling down on his outrage. And why not? Kenney has built his entire political career exploiting the conspiratorial mindset. Backing down now and applying mea culpas all around, leaves everything he has ever said being called into question. Worse, if he loses this lawsuit, more of them will be coming. He will have to remain Premier for years to cover the costs of those suits. He can’t do that, because the PMO awaits.

    Reply
    • A little bird

      December 3rd, 2021

      Kenney may think he’s the heir apparent to Harpers regime, but the obvious fact is Harper was big on sycophants and as a result there isn’t a capable leader left in the party he created in his own image.
      I imagine this frustrates papa Steve a great deal and I, for one, get a lot out of it.

      Reply
  8. A little bird

    December 3rd, 2021

    The thing about lawyering is it’s a business and I heartily doubt whatever private firm Kenney has retained is about to throw back a fish with (basically) unlimited funds at his disposal.

    More likely, Json is going to use it as (another) opportunity to grandstand, gaslight, and have more gullible albertans give him money he doesn’t deserve. Sigh

    Reply
  9. Carlos Beca

    December 3rd, 2021

    OK some more money spent in the name of Jason Kenney, probably the most wasteful premier in Alberta history.
    We will add to the account no worries we already have 1.5 billion donation to the poor companies that move our free oil to the US. So now we will pay to support our fact less premier in court. Everyone with a regular brain knows that Jason Kenney did change what was on the report and LIED. Not just him but also Savage who totally distorted what was on the report during her press conference that was to date one of the UCP best idiotic displays. A certain Emmy ward winning.
    That a democratic province is run this way and with this amount of sub standard policy is certainly being watched not just in the rest of Canada but certainly around the world where people have some interest in reading about Canada.
    I never thought that we would ever get this low.
    I know that some conservatives reading this think that we are a bunch of communists but it is time that we more progressive people stand up to this ridiculous display of regressive garbage.
    To be honest I think that it is time we force a real change to much better and much higher standards politics and much stronger public interest. What we are witnessing is the worse quality politics I have ever seen.

    Reply
  10. Gromster

    December 3rd, 2021

    ABS: “What is the term for “picking fights you’ll inevitably lose?” Dumbfuckery.

    Reply
  11. David Wills

    December 5th, 2021

    With the premier’s penchant for doubling down on bad ideas coupled with his need for some red meat for his ilk id be amazed if he does not escalate the situation.

    Reply
  12. Scotty on Denman

    December 6th, 2021

    Europeans have been protesting new Covid restrictions implemented to meet the spread of the new Omicron variant, probably because, after many forewent traditional, indoor holiday-season gatherings for the first time last year and endured four pandemic waves of variants for the past 21 months, the prospect of forgoing yet another holiday season (already begun since Chanukah came very early this year) is, as we all know, hard to take.

    Despite broad vaccination, seasonal uptick of Covid began in Canada about Thanksgiving and, with another month of holiday-making to go, however restricted, the virus might make a liar of me yet—but it seems, unlike Europe, there’s been a lull in Covid protests here in North America. Maybe it’s because we’re distracted by unnatural catastrophes or, in the USA, the spectacle of the two-headed tRumpublican party inflicting venomous wounds on itself (a diminutive version playing out inAlberta) while the country writhes in gun violence or stupefies watching mass-shooting trials on TV. Whatever, anti-vaxxerism has felt the sting of opprobrium from a mostly silent majority which accepts pandemic protocols for everyone’s sake (upwards of 85% vaccinated in most North American jurisdictions), and anti-vax protest has definitely become more a frothy sea-foam lapping fewer beaches than the more solid, rolling wave it was earlier. Yet, with Omicron and probably more restrictions coming, it wouldn’t surprise if there’s another anti-vax Hail-Mary or Battle of the Bulge left as third-or-more-doses are recommended and renewed travel restrictions arrive and departure gates everywhere.

    The unvaccinated are still being admitted to (indeed, filling up) ICUs, meaning a committed core of them still exists, even though quieter and doubtlessly smaller. Perhaps it’s retreating into its own, rural world of unquestioning loyalty to its cause, organizing ritual, evangelical confirmation, and steeling morale amongst inmates with incessant virtue-signalling outsiders find absurd but which is likely a nascent argot in pidgin phase. And probably practicing scriptural eisegesis, too—reading anti-vax rationalization ‘into’ the words of The Good Book.

    Since anti-vaxxerism is strongly cultivated with climate-change denial in Alberta (as elsewhere in the USA), adherents are probably also practicing exegesis on— or ‘reading-out-of’— the Inquiry into Anti-Alberta Energy Campaigns—not out of the final Report which of course found that no such campaigns exist, but rather from the canon of the Inquiry’s initial promise to find such, with its exegetical implication that revenge would not diminish adherents’ vindication that Alberta’s bitumen smelting-and-export industry does not significantly contribute to climate change, and that victory over those alleged conspirators who say it does will be won. That is, as if the Report never happened or “doesn’t matter,” as minister Savage’s running commentary intoned during its long-delayed release: in order to sustain climate-change denial and also, therefore, the synthesis with anti-vaxxerism which can survive by itself like a cultic cyst around which the rest of the world goes about its business relatively unperturbed, the Report musta been so ’redacted’ as to vanish completely.

    But climate change and what remains of its denial cannot be so easily left to itself like religious anarchists content to live communally in perfect, rural isolation. Had Kenney’s Inquiry found what it was looking for, it would be to counter environmentalists’ opposition to development of Alberta’s huge deposit of bitumen mixed with sand: the near-solid smelted product, mixed with solvent (so’s to flow through a pipe), is explicitly intended for export and, mostly, combustion into the atmosphere, fossil fuels being largely to blame for rapid climate change, in turn responsible for ecologic and economic disruption. Some Albertans (and allies across Canada), typically employed in some aspect of petroleum production, insist their bitumen-smelting’s contribution to atmospheric CO2 is insignificant relative to the biggest polluters, China and the USA, and so, by right, they should be free to develop as much of the bitumen sands as they would. Environmentalists (and everyone around the world concerned about climate change) counter this argument in much the same way as epidemiologists do anti-vaxxerism: the problem(s), left to themselves, are so devastating they require an all-in effort to solve, even down to individual household participation.

    Such is the close parallel between the two problems. Yet, in the minds of those already suspicious of government, too close to be mere coincidence: such is the fuel for conspiracy theories which elaborate and excuse such absurd claims that eventual retreat to ideological —even geographical—redoubts evolve and, the effort thus dug-in, so-called ‘culture wars’ ensue.

    Such is the political climate Kenney availed to become premier. The promised Inquiry was plainly a sop to win a campaign: even if it found what it was looking for, there would have been no tangible benefit to Albertans, certainly not within foreseeable four-year terms. But then, Kenney’s sights his horizon much farther away than Alberta. Like tRump (whom K-Boy often emulates), Kenney seems all about the high rhetoric of campaigning, but with little, if any policy or governing ability to follow it up; and although it was always risky to not ditch that Inquiry promise soon after winning power, it looks as if he wanted to keep it alive for, like tRump (again), continual stumping until the next election. Had he simply got down to getting real policy done for the public good, the Inquiry would have faded from the shortest kind of memory, political. Instead he hopped stump-to-stump falsely accusing named environmental orgs his own Inquiry ultimately absolved, and now, as Henny Youngman joked about sticking out one’s tongue while standing in the window naked, they’re mad at their neighbour. K-Boy’s been hoist upon his own petard, probably no better example of Shakespeare’s famous phrase (in Hamlet) than the defamation lawsuits now pending against him.

    He couldn’t have foreseen Covid, but because he copied the disastrous tRump playbook (again), the virus has naturally fermented with its close parallel in the guts of the Inquiry, both astounding policy flops leading to questions about his fitness to govern. Can K-Boy manage the party he rendered together then asunder? He has, so far. Will he fight the lawsuit using public money? Probably. Will it help him win re-election? It seems unlikely. Can he still pursue, in the wake of all these partisan, policy, and political disasters, the prime-ministerial aspirations many speculate he has? One can imagine he might, but only as a dismissible, ideological cyst around which real politics goes about the people’s business relatively unperturbed. We should hope for no better.

    It is one of the most fascinating melodramas in Canada today, but, for goodness sake, let it not distract from staying Covid-safe over the holiday season.

    Reply

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