EDMONTON Premier Jason Kenney, flanked by permanent members of his cabinet, stood on a podium in 2019 to announce that his government launched a comprehensive public inquiry into allegations that foreign-funded activists targeted Alberta’s oil and gas sector, potentially illegal.
More than two years later, the controversial report was finally released on Thursday.
After deadline extensions and an increase of $ 1 million to the initial budget of $ 2.5 million, the query has come back with a report saying that nothing illegal or wrong was done.
Linking the exact amount of foreign funding intended for “anti-Alberta” activity was also a step too far for the study.
Its launch was a drumming moment for Kenney’s newly elected United Conservative government in 2019, after campaigning for a commitment to set up the inquiry into a broader “fight back” strategy aimed at oil industry opponents. At the time, Kenney was aware that foreign-funded environmental activists were spreading misinformation to oil and gas projects and pipelines.
Still, Alberta’s government says the final report from the public inquiry shows clear evidence that groups opposed to the province’s oil sands have received large sums of money from US philanthropic organizations in recent years.
“Was it illegal? No, ”Alberta Energy Minister Sonya Savage told reporters at a news conference Thursday.
“Was it wrong? I think the majority of Albanians would say that was wrong. ”
However, the head of the investigation, forensic auditor Steve Allan, said he had not found “any suggestions for errors.”
Allan says his final recommendations are not focused on “seeking retaliation, blaming, or seeking harm from anyone.”
“In my opinion, no individual or organization has done anything illegal,” Allan wrote. “In fact, they have exercised their freedom of speech.”
Approximately $ 15 billion of foreign funding ran for registered Canadian charities between 2010 and 2018, the study found. About $ 925 million in foreign funding for Canadian charities was used for “environmental initiatives” between 2003 and 2019, the report said. An additional $ 352 million in foreign funding for “Canadian-based environmental initiatives” remained in the United States during this period, the report added.
Based on “word search criteria,” the report found that about $ 54.1 million in grant descriptions was specifically earmarked for “anti-Alberta resource development activity,” but Allan noted that it was difficult to get an exact number.
The results said the large amounts of foreign funding flowing to Canada have “potential to influence issues of public interest to Albanians and Canadians”.
According to a “key find” document provided to provincial government journalists, the final report states “the existence of well-funded foreign interests that have waged a decade-long campaign of disinformation aimed at locking Alberta’s oil and gas.”
However, as Allan notes in his final report, there has been “much discussion” about the investigative mandate “regarding” the dissemination of misleading and false information. “”
“In September 2019, I decided in my interpretation of the terms of reference that determining the existence of misleading and false information can have significant reputational consequences and is a huge task which is impractical for the Commission to assume given the resources it has to available, “Allan wrote.
Allan’s report contained six recommendations: develop better transparency standards for charitable and non-profit purposes; improve dialogue with indigenous communities to work for reconciliation through economic development; improve research and technology around the energy industry to better track and report greenhouse gas emissions data; work on a national campaign to develop natural resources; and create a new brand for Canadian energy.
The documents released Thursday included Allan’s final report of a total of more than 600 pages, a summary of key findings from the provincial government and a report from Deloitte Forensic Inc.
Deloitte’s analysis included about 200,000 documents and 200 organizations. It found that the American philanthropic community “provides significant funding to Canadian charities, ENGOs, environmental companies, and conservative / market-oriented organizations.”
In 2018 alone, Deloitte found that Canadian charities – which receive a large portion of their funding from various levels of government – received about $ 2.5 billion from foreign sources. In 2010, it was only $ 812 million, according to documents released Thursday.
Allan documented environmental campaigns, their strategies and media associated with them. After reviewing the Deloitte report, he found that “foreign funding for Canadian charities is generally significant and continues to grow.”
“However, I was ultimately unable to accurately track the amount of foreign funding used for energy campaigns against Alberta,” Allan said, adding that it is too difficult to track money after an organization receives them. and uses them for “varied and complex” missions.
The energy industry in Alberta has been targeted by organizations that have claimed victory when projects have fallen through, but the sector has also faced “difficult economic circumstances,” Allan wrote.
“While energy campaigns against Alberta may have played a role in the cancellation of some oil and gas developments, I am not able to detect that these campaigns alone caused project delays or cancellations,” he said.
Savage acknowledged that it was difficult to track this kind of funding, but said the actual amount ultimately does not matter to everyday Albertans.
“If you’re someone who lost your job and got hurt by it, you do not care if it was $ 100 million or $ 10 million. You lost your job. You were injured. Alberta was injured, “she said.
Savage also admitted that the report did not find any suggestion that a campaign against oil sands directly caused a single energy project, but said it should not detract from the tactics used in their campaigns.
“These groups were real,” she said. “They celebrated it when the projects were canceled, and I’m pretty sure they’re not the only reason – they’s a pretty big reason for what happened to all of our energy projects in Alberta.”
Some of them include the Northern Gateway, Energy East and Keystone XL pipelines, all of which have been scrapped in recent years.
Environmental organizations quickly noted that the report found no misdemeanors on their behalf.
A press release from the Environmental Defense, David Suzuki Foundation, Dogwood, Équiterre, STAND.earth, West Coast Environmental Law and Wilderness Committee blasted the investigation as a “one-sided” and “unconstitutional” process that “should never be repeated in a democratic country like Canada. ”
“Although the report shows no evidence of misconduct by environmental groups, the Alberta government publicly refuses to accept the report’s findings,” said Tim Gray, CEO of Environmental Defense, one of the entities reviewed during the investigation.
“This ill-conceived study has not only been a colossal waste of time — these petrostat tactics threaten democracy and hold Alberta back from the important work needed to move to a cleaner economy,” Eugene Kung told West Coast Environmental Law .
Join the conversation