A pumpjack works at a well head on an oil and gas installation near Cremona, Alta., Saturday, Oct. 29, 2016. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh

A pumpjack works at a well head on an oil and gas installation near Cremona, Alta., Saturday, Oct. 29, 2016. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh

Inquiry into Alberta oil and gas critics extended to Jan. 31, with no new money

90-day extension announced

EDMONTON — A public inquiry into who is funding environmental opposition to Alberta’s oil and gas industry has been granted an extension until the end of January.

Alberta’s United Conservative government contends foreign interests have long been bankrolling campaigns against fossil fuel development and in 2019 tapped forensic accountant Steve Allan to lead a $2.5-million inquiry.

Allan’s report was initially due in July, but he was granted an extension until Oct. 30 and a $1-million budget increase.

Energy Minister Sonya Savage says Alberta’s cabinet has agreed to another 90-day extension to Jan. 31, but it comes with no additional funding.

She says it’s meant to ensure potential participants have a fair opportunity to provide input and that COVID-19 restrictions have led to procedural delays.

A lawsuit filed by environmental law firm Ecojustice argues the inquiry is politically motivated, biased and outside provincial jurisdiction.

“Our government has been unwavering in our commitment to stand up for our energy sector, including launching a public inquiry into the existence of a foreign-funded anti-Alberta energy campaign,” Savage said in a statement Wednesday.

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney said Saturday during the United Conservatives’ virtual annual general meeting that his government would be introducing legislation next year to make it illegal for foreign interests to fund political action committees.

It would also pursue “legal avenues” to push Ottawa into cracking down on charities that improperly engage in political activity, he said.

Kenney added that the $30-million-a-year Canadian Energy Centre, a war room meant to counter what the UCP government considers misinformation about the oil and gas industry, will ramp up again after the pandemic put it on hiatus.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 28, 2020.

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