4th deadline extension granted to Steve Allan’s Alberta inquiry into oil & gas critics

Demonstrators use a mock oil pipeline to block the entrance to the Canadian Embassy in central London on April 18, to protest the Trans Mountain pipeline project. TOLGA AKMEN/AFP/Getty Images

For the fourth time, a deadline extension has been granted to the Alberta inquiry into the foreign funding of oil and gas industry critics.

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.”

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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.

Click to play video: 'Questions continue to swirl around Alberta inquiry into funding of environmental groups'
Questions continue to swirl around Alberta inquiry into funding of environmental groups

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.”

In February, Court of Queen’s Bench Justice Karen Horner told Allan to continue his work while she decided on the case.

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Click to play video: 'Environmental law group Ecojustice challenges Alberta oil inquiry in court'
Environmental law group Ecojustice challenges Alberta oil inquiry in court

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.”

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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.

Click to play video: 'Alberta government quietly gives another extension to complete report on inquiry into oil & gas critics'
Alberta government quietly gives another extension to complete report on inquiry into oil & gas critics

On Wednesday, Savage said the commission didn’t request any additional funding with this latest deadline, and no increase was provided.

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The energy minister must publish the final report within 90 days of receiving it.

— With files from The Canadian Press

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