Alberta’s report on anti-energy campaigns looks like a multimillion-dollar dud


To his supporters, it all sounded so right, so promising. An Alberta Premier who was going to stick up for his province against those wanting to tear it down.

Shortly after winning power in the spring of 2019, Jason Kenney announced a public inquiry to look into the Canadian environmental organizations behind what he branded a nefarious, highly sophisticated campaign to defame the province’s energy industry and landlock its resources.

To be headed up by forensic and restructuring accountant, Steve Allan, the inquiry was going to expose a “premeditated, internationally planned and financed operation to put Alberta energy out of business,” the Premier promised.

This was red meat to backers of the United Conservative Party, convinced, as they had become, that this grand conspiracy was real, that mysterious U.S. hedge fund owners (among others) were financing Canadian environmental groups through third parties, all to ensure Alberta oil stayed in the ground.

Mr. Allan would get to the bottom of it all. The Premier imagined some groups would be facing lawsuits for damages once it was all said and done.

Yes, well, what is that they say about best laid plans?

A partial preliminary draft of Mr. Allan’s report was obtained by The Globe and Mail last week. Unless he is holding back some truly explosive information for the final version, which he has to hand in at the end of this month, this inquiry will have amounted to a pathetic $3.5-million waste of money.

Which, granted, is less than the $30-million the government set aside for the Canadian Energy Centre (dubbed “the war room”), established to fight back against “misinformation” being propagated about the Alberta energy sector. From its inception, it has been a colossal dud and giant embarrassment.

The Allan report will also pale in comparison with the $1.3-billion the government lost by investing in the proposed Keystone pipeline, which was killed by the administration of U.S. President Joe Biden. Still, a report of dubious quality that went $1-million over budget and needed four extensions is something that should outrage Albertans.

The fact that it exposes the Premier’s grand conspiracy theory as a big fat nothing burger should infuriate those who bought the whole thing in the first place.

While I’m sure the final report will find a way to smear environmental organizations (in the nicest way), the preliminary version of it does concede there is “nothing inherently wrong,” in protesting the oil sector in Alberta.

Mr. Allan goes out of his way to say that any “anti-Alberta energy campaign,” is not “improper” and does not “constitute conduct that should be in any way impugned.” Boy, that’s a long way from the “premeditated, internationally planned and financed operation to put Alberta energy out of business,” Mr. Kenney promised his supporters an inquiry would reveal.

This inquiry has been one of the most bogus, ill-conceived, ideologically motivated exercises ever conducted in Alberta. That environmental organizations in Canada received some funding from American foundations was never in dispute. What was also clear, was that money amounted to a fraction of their overall budgets. Did environmentalists want to see the oil sands shut down? Yes. And that, too, was the biggest non-secret in the world.

And as the planet gets hotter each year, as more of it burns each summer, these activists increasingly appear to be on the right side of history. Anyone who wants to brand them as anti-Canadian or extremists or socialist propagandists out to destroy progress looks increasingly out of touch.

The fact that Mr. Allan gave space in his preliminary report to conspiracists who believe those leading the climate fight, the activists on the front lines of the battle over the future of the globe, are benefitting financially from carbon credits and subsidies for renewable energy and ownership in rail cars that ship oil is beyond disappointing.

It discredits his work.

There are sentences in the preliminary report that honestly make you shake your head, such as Mr. Allan’s statement that there is “nothing inherently wrong in principle in a campaign against the oil sands,” and that the people behind it “might be motivated by a genuine concern about climate change.” Seriously? Like this needed to be said?

The government has 90 days to craft a response after it receives the report. You can bet that as much effort will go into trying to put a positive spin on this debacle as went into what was ultimately a futile effort to find something devious where it didn’t exist.