Kenney government boosts budget for public inquiry looking at how anti-oil groups are funded, extends report’s deadline

WATCH ABOVE: Some Global News videos about Alberta's public inquiry looking into how anti-oil groups are funded.

Alberta’s public inquiry into whether foreign money is bankrolling anti-oil protests in Canada is going into overtime.

Energy Minister Sonya Savage says the initial findings from the inquiry’s commissioner, Steve Allan, show more work is needed to complete the final report.

So, Savage says the government is extending the deadline for the report to Oct. 30 from July 2.

Also, an extra $1 million will be added to the existing $2.5-million budget.

READ MORE: Critics question intentions of Kenney’s anti-oil sands inquiry

The cash will be diverted from the budget of the Canadian Energy Centre, the government’s so-called energy “war room.”

The inquiry was an election promise by Premier Jason Kenney, who has said he believes foreign funders are pulling the strings on domestic protesters to undermine Alberta’s oil and gas industry.

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Critics say Allan is not fact finding but is out to prove a pre-determined conclusion and in doing so harming the reputations of those who legitimately and lawfully question the expansion of oil and gas operations.

READ MORE: Progress Alberta threatens UCP government with lawsuit over inquiry into oil and gas critics

Late last year, the environmental law firm Ecojustice launched legal action, asking a court to strike down the inquiry, saying the process is politically motivated, prejudges conclusions and is outside provincial jurisdiction.

Savage, in a statement issued Thursday, said it’s critical that Allan have the resources and time to do the job properly.

“How Alberta — and Canada — come through this economic crisis depends in large part on the survival and successful recovery of our energy sector,” said Savage.

“We look forward to the recommendations of the commissioner. We will do whatever it takes to support one of Canada’s most important industries as we set a path towards economic recovery and renewed prosperity.”

In a statement, a spokesperson for the Alberta Inquiry said to date, more than 100 interviews have been conducted with academics, researchers, industry officials, environmentalists, not-for-profit organizations and members of Indigenous communities to gather a variety of views.

“It has researched voluminous records of charitable grants, tax filings and public records of organizations,” Alan Boras said.

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“In the next stage of the inquiry’s process, the commissioner will afford parties an opportunity to consider and respond to relevant material collected through the research and investigative work to date. The commissioner expects to be providing further information on the specific process to be followed in the near future.”

More information on the inquiry can be found online.

With files from Global News.

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