The $3.5-million inquiry headed by Steve Allan was supposed to be done by May 31, after an extension was granted by the United Conservative Party government at the end of January. Now, he has until the end of July.
Premier Jason Kenney defended the extension, saying during his time in public service, he can’t ever recall a public inquiry that’s ever come in on time.
“People (who) dig into these issues often need more time. That’s fine,” Kenney said on Wednesday.
“We’ve said that the important thing is that they come up with a useful report that can help to govern our future actions by Alberta’s government in defending the women and men who work in our energy industry.”
Allan, a Calgary forensic accountant, was tapped in July 2019 to lead an inquiry into what Premier Jason Kenney and his government have long argued is a concerted effort bankrolled by deep-pocketed U.S. foundations to hamstring Alberta’s oil and gas industry.
Environmental law group Ecojustice filed a lawsuit in November 2019 that alleged the inquiry was politically motivated, biased and outside provincial jurisdiction.
Ecojustice’s lawyer Barry Robinson argued the inquiry is “a political gunfight intended to target, intimidate and harm organizations that hold views that differ from those of the government.”
Last week, she dismissed Ecojustice’s case, saying the environmental law firm Ecojustice failed to prove the inquiry was called to intimidate charities that have raised concerns about the industry’s environmental impact.
On Wednesday, the government confirmed to Global News the inquiry has been given more time.
“Due to the time wasted by the obstructive legal efforts of Ecojustice, which were ultimately unsuccessful, cabinet has approved a short extension until July 30 for the commissioner to complete his important work,” said a statement from Energy Minister Sonya Savage.
“Our government promised Albertans that we would fully investigate the widely reported foreign-funded campaign to land lock our resources and we are committed to fulfilling that promise.”
The inquiry had an initial budget of $2.5 million and a July 2020 deadline.
Last summer, Allan was given his first four-month extension and a $1-million budget increase.
In October, the inquiry got another 90-day extension, but no new money. The same thing happened in January.
On Wednesday, Savage said the commission didn’t request any additional funding with this latest deadline, and no increase was provided.
The energy minister must publish the final report within 90 days of receiving it.
— With files from The Canadian Press