CALGARY – Ecojustice is seeking an injunction to suspend the Kenney government’s public inquiry into “anti-Alberta” campaigns until the court makes a ruling in a lawsuit challenging the inquiry’s legality.
If granted, the injunction would force commissioner Steve Allan to pause all work on the public inquiry until the court can rule on whether the process is legal in the first place. This would mean a halt on interviewing and investigating charities and individuals who have previously expressed criticism of the province’s oil and gas industry.
Ecojustice launched a legal challenge of the inquiry in November 2019. The organization says the government brought the inquiry for improper political purposes, that the proceedings give the perception of bias and unfairness, and that the inquiry sets out to deal with issues that don’t actually fall under provincial jurisdiction
A hearing on the matter was originally scheduled to take place in April 2020, but has been indefinitely delayed due to COVID-19.
In the meantime, the Alberta government extended the due date for the inquiry’s final report by four months, to Oct. 30, and earmarked an additional $1M in funding for the inquiry. It also made minor updates to the inquiry’s terms of reference.
In response, Ecojustice filed for an injunction late last week. The organization says changes to the terms of reference do not address their fundamental concerns with the inquiry, and that the government should not spend an additional $1M of taxpayer dollars on a process that the court may find to have been illegal from the start.
Devon Page, Ecojustice’s executive director, issued the following statement:
“Ecojustice has filed an injunction to put the brakes on a process we say is an illegitimate, biased, and unfair political stunt.
“Due to COVID-19, Ecojustice’s lawsuit challenging Premier Kenney’s inquiry is on hold. While we await a hearing and court ruling on this matter, it is not reasonable to pour more time, effort, and another $1M taxpayer dollars into this flawed process.
“Organizations and individuals — particularly those working at the grassroots level — should not be expected to redirect resources away from the critical work they’re doing to prevent the climate catastrophe and take part in a process that is stacked against them.
“Every minute and dollar spent on this inquiry is a waste of resources that could be invested in policies and programs that would actually help Albertans and create sustainable jobs and infrastructure to help with COVID-19 recovery. Instead, the Kenney government is spending millions of dollars on a political exercise that is not in Albertans’ best interest.”
Ecojustice goes to court and uses the power of the law to defend nature, combat climate change, and fight for a healthy environment. Its strategic, innovative public interest lawsuits lead to legal precedents that deliver lasting solutions to Canada’s most urgent environmental problems. As Canada’s largest environmental law charity, Ecojustice operates offices in Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto, Ottawa, and Halifax.