Three environmental groups painted as hostile to the oil and gas industry by the Alberta government say they weren’t interviewed for an interim report submitted as part of the public inquiry into alleged foreign funding of “anti-Alberta energy campaigns.”
Inquiry commissioner Steve Allan submitted his interim report to Energy Minister Sonya Savage by the Jan. 31 deadline. In a written statement Allan said he had “met and engaged with many people and organizations representing all facets of the inquiry’s mandate.”
However, the Pembina Institute, Tides Canada and the David Suzuki Foundation say they were not interviewed by Allan.
Simon Dyer, executive director of the Pembina Institute, said Allan asked to talk to his organization before Christmas. Allan declined the opportunity to interview Pembina when the think tank responded in the first week of January.
“We offered to meet, and Mr. Allan politely said that he was, at that point, wrapping up the report,” Dyer said. “So that wasn’t necessary.”
Tides Canada and the David Suzuki Foundation say Allan didn’t contact them at all.
The three groups have been cited in speeches by Premier Jason Kenney and the United Conservative Party election platform as waging active campaigns to defame Alberta oil and gas with the help of foreign money.
Allan was named as the commissioner of the $2.5-million inquiry in July. His final report — due by July 2 — is expected to be made public within 90 days of its submission. Savage is reviewing the interim report to determine whether Allan should hold public hearings.
Allan has been tasked with finding out the extent of foreign funding in environmental organizations that have “disseminated misleading or false information” about Alberta oil and gas, and whether those organizations have received municipal, provincial or federal funding or have charitable funding status.
He has also been asked to recommend how the government should respond and what criteria to use when issuing grants.
‘There’s more to do’
Allan’s spokesperson, Alan Boras, confirmed the commissioner interviewed Vivian Krause, the independent researcher whose work has been frequently cited by Kenney as evidence of foreign interference in anti-oilsands campaigns.
Boras declined to get into details about who Allan has spoken to, noting that the commissioner continues to seek a range of voices for his final report.
“It’s a step along the path,” Boras said of the interim report. “The inquiry carries on and there’s more to do.”
Boras said Allan and the Pembina Institute exchanged emails but could not agree on a time to meet. He said Allan still intends to talk to the group.
Dyer said he recalls the exchange differently. When Pembina responded to Allan’s request, the commissioner told them he didn’t have time to talk because he was working on his interim report.
“I guess we just ran out of time,” Dyer said. “We didn’t receive any other approaches from the inquiry during the whole period of last year.”
Dyer said 15 per cent of the Pembina Institute’s funding comes from outside of Canada. He said information about the organization’s funding can be found on its website.
Critics say the inquiry, along with the government’s Canadian Energy Centre, is part of an effort to create a culture of fear and silence criticism of the oil and gas industry in light of global concerns about climate change.
The government has said the initiatives are necessary to combat myths about energy production, which it believes are stifling investment and job creation in Alberta.