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Alberta inquiry into 'foreign-funded' environmentalists gets another extension

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Image: Paul Lowry/Flickr

Apparently commissioner Steve Allan still isn't having any luck finding those sinister foreign funders of "anti-energy" campaigns.

But don't worry, the government of Alberta has given the head of its "inquiry into anti-Alberta energy campaigns" yet another extension to keep looking for the elusive foreigners featured in Premier Jason Kenney's successful pre-election conspiracy theory.

As a campaign tool for the United Conservative Party, accusing the NDP of running a government that was soft on pipeline opponents, the conspiracy theory was little short of brilliant.

As a post-election public inquiry conducted in secret that's spiralling into fiasco, maybe not so much.

It's starting to look like the whole thing was a con, not to mention a misuse of the Public Inquiries Act.

So you'd think this would be starting to embarrass Kenney and company, suggesting as it does that there's actually nothing there to find.

But apparently not. Foreign-funded agitators: that's the UCP's story and they're stickin' to it.

"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," Energy Minister Sonya Savage said in a statement published yesterday on the government's web site.

"In order to make sure the final report will provide government with the information required to address this important issue, cabinet has agreed to the commissioner's request for a 90-day extension," she said.

The inquiry was announced by Kenney and Savage in July 2019. It had a $2.5-million budget. The effort was supposed to be completed by July 2020. As the deadline closed in, commissioner Allan sought and got a four-month extension and an extra $1 million to keep looking.

Last month, he asked for even more time. Now he's got it -- although this time they're going to get tough on him. There won't be another extra million anyway.

This effort has clearly left Allan in a pickle. He's obviously out of his depth when it comes to major league prevarication. He admitted the other day he won't even be trying to prove any of the campaigns he's supposed to be looking at spread any false information. So, we're going to go after them for spreading true information?

It also raises the question of what he's been doing with his time and our money since Kenney and Savage announced the inquiry.

If you were wondering why the government of Alberta couldn't find a judge, retired or otherwise, to run its inquiry, this starts to suggest a reason. Anyone trained in the law would have known better than get involved in a baseless fishing expedition like the anti-environmentalist Allan Inquiry.

That's the basis of the court action by Ecojustice Canada Society, the respected Vancouver-based environmental litigation charity, which argues the inquiry is nothing more than a political stunt to silence opponents of fossil fuel extraction projects and distract from the climate crisis.

Savage said the extension would "ensure that potential participants have a fair opportunity to provide input." Ecojustice argues the inquiry is designed to do the opposite.

Who knows? Maybe the government's waiting for the courts to rule in favour of Ecojustice to make the embarrassment go away!

In her statement, Savage said Allan's final report must be submitted to her office by January 31, 2021.

Jason Nixon's 'Trudeau tracing app' crack likely explains COVID Alert delay

Now that doctors as well as mere bloggers are yelling at the Alberta government to agree to use Ottawa's COVID-19 smartphone app, Alberta's health minister has tried to explain the province's delay adopting the COVID Alert infection tracing tool.

It's the 247,000 people the province says have signed up to use Alberta's ABTraceTogether app, Tyler Shandro said yesterday.

"The issue right now is to be able to talk to the federal government about how those 247,000 people can be transitioned to the federal government's app," Shandro told reporters in the legislature. "I want to make sure there's a transition that’s smooth and has the smallest bleed of users."

Huh? This makes little sense. It takes seconds to download a new smartphone app.

In addition to costing far too much, Alberta's ABTraceTogether app never worked properly and has been adopted by relatively few users. The federal app works and can be accessed in eight of 10 provinces and all territories.

Ottawa officials, diplomatically, haven't said why they think Alberta is dragging its feet. But the evidence suggests it's pure politics.

While Shandro expressed the party line, government house leader Jason Nixon probably came closer to the truth when he mocked COVID Alert as "the Trudeau tracing app" in the legislature Tuesday.

Sure sounds like this is about scoring points on the Liberals, not saving lives in Alberta.

Ottawa should unilaterally introduce the app in Alberta and let the UCP complain.

David Climenhaga, author of the Alberta Diary blog, is a journalist, author, journalism teacher, poet and trade union communicator who has worked in senior writing and editing positions at The Globe and Mail and the Calgary Herald.

Image: Paul Lowry/Flickr

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