Report into 'foreign-funded campaign' to smear Alberta's oil industry delayed
Members of Stop Energy East Halifax protest outside the library in Halifax on Monday, Jan. 26, 2015. (Andrew Vaughan / THE CANADIAN PRESS)
CALGARY -- Just a few months into Premier Jason Kenney's term in office, his government announced an inquiry to learn more about environment groups that it said were funded by foreign investors hell-bent on keeping the country's oil and gas from reaching other markets.
Now, more than a year after it was first announced, the commissioner in charge of the Alberta Public Inquiry says it will take more time to complete the final report.
In a release issued Monday, the commission stated it was still engaging with specific parties through correspondence, written submissions as well as in-person meetings and would need an additional period of time before a report could be forwarded to Alberta's Minister of Energy.
"I am conscious of striking a balance between the need for an efficient and cost-effective process, and the importance of ensuring parties are treated fairly and given a reasonable opportunity to respond to matters that may affect their interests," said commissioner Steven Allan in the release.
The inquiry, which was given an initial budget of $2.5 million, was expected to discover if any laws have been broken and recommend appropriate action against any parties found to be involved in any wrongdoing.
It was originally due to present its report last July but a few days before that deadline, an extension and additional $1 million in funding was requested and approved by the province. The commission's website now indicates that a further extension may be needed.
"Given delays caused by COVID-19 and the time necessary to implement a procedure that is fair, prior to finalizing the final report, the commissioner has advised the Minister of Energy that the final report will not be completed by October 30, 2020," the website's FAQ reads.
"The commissioner expects to request an extension of time from the Minister of Energy, as he is entitled to do under the terms of reference."
It also states a request hasn't yet been made as the commissioner wants to be "reasonably certain" about how much time will be needed. There is no mention about whether or not Allan will request more money to complete his work.
The energy minister's office confirmed to CTV News that, so far, no formal request to extend the timeline or budget has been received.
"If a request for an extension is received by government, a decision would ultimately be decided upon by cabinet and require an order in council to amend the terms of reference," said Kavi Bal, senior press secretary for Energy Minister Sonya Savage.
Premier Kenney, speaking to the media Tuesday, said he hasn't spoken with commissioner Allan since the inquiry began but added he remained confident it would come back with a positive result for Alberta no matter how long it takes.
"I just think the fact that they're trying to shut down that inquiry is perfect proof that they do not want the transparency that the commission is about. I've always thought that sunshine is the best disinfectant and I've always wanted to get to the bottom of the campaign to land-lock Alberta energy. That's why we committed to the commission in the last election and that's the mandate that's been given to the commission."
PIPELINE SUPPORT REMAINS STRONG
Even while the Alberta Public Inquiry's report is to be delayed until next month, Kenney said support for the oil and gas industry is alive and well in Canada.
He said much of that comes from newly-minted Conservative leader Erin O'Toole.
"He announced his campaign for the Conservative leadership here in Calgary, on a Calgary radio station, promoting pipelines and our oil industry. The very first issue that he raised with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau after becoming leader of the Official Opposition was western alienation and one of the very first issues he raised with the premier of Quebec was the importance of getting pipelines built and Western Canadian oil to global markets."
Canada's latest project that would have achieved that end – TC Energy's Energy East project – was cancelled by the Trudeau government. Kenney said he and Alberta have not given up on the idea behind the project.
"I for one and Alberta's government have not given up on the dream or the vision of a west-east pipeline system that takes Alberta oil to the port of St. John's or the Irving refinery to displace Saudi oil imports. That was one of the first things I brought up with Premier Legault when I first met him and I will continue to do so."
The Alberta Public Inquiry's framework is posted online.
(With files from the Canadian Press)