Posted on May 14, 2021 (updated: May 14, 2021)

Alberta public inquiry allowed to proceed, decision sets concerning precedent

Photo by Alberta Newsroom via Flickr (CC BY NC ND 2.0)

Premier Jason Kenney’s controversial and beleaguered public inquiry into “anti-Alberta” activities allowed to proceed

CALGARY/TERRITORIES OF THE BLACKFOOT AND PEOPLES OF TREATY 7, HOME TO MÉTIS NATION OF ALBERTA, REGION III – Ecojustice is disappointed by today’s ruling from Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench giving Premier Jason Kenney’s controversial and beleaguered public inquiry into “anti-Alberta” activities the green light to proceed.

Ecojustice, Canada’s largest environmental law charity, first filed its lawsuit challenging the legitimacy of the inquiry in November 2019. From the time the inquiry was announced, Ecojustice has maintained that the process is a biased, unfair, and politically motivated attempt to silence organizations and individuals who speak out about the climate crisis.

After three deadline extensions, widespread criticism to the government, and a cost of $3.5M to Alberta taxpayers, the inquiry’s final report is due to be delivered to the Alberta government on May 31.

Devon Page, executive director at Ecojustice:  

“We lost the court case, but we won the debate.  The Alberta government’s public inquiry long ago lost all credibility.  Most importantly, our court case successfully neutralized the premier’s primary goal which was to target and silence Canadians and Canadian charities who want to break the fossil fuel industries’ stranglehold on Alberta’s climate and energy policy.

“Our biggest concern is that this emboldens an Alberta government that is completely out of touch with the climate crisis.  We need to look no further than this government’s disastrous attempt to open parts of the Rockies up for coal mining, or its failed attempt to challenge the price on carbon and its upcoming challenge to federal environmental assessment legislation.  When we need bold action, the Alberta government is recycling policies from the 1950’s.

“With today’s decision the court has set a concerning precedent that may embolden other governments to use public resources and processes to silence public debate.

“Though we are disappointed with the court’s decision, today’s outcome has only strengthened Ecojustice’s resolve to continue using the power of the law to defend nature, combat climate change, and fight for a healthier, safer environment for all people in Canada.”

Background

  • The Alberta government launched its public inquiry in July 2019.
  • Ecojustice announced its legal challenge of the inquiry four months later, in November 2019.
  • The deadline for the inquiry’s final report was extended three times to May 31, 2021.
  • The province also increased the budget for the inquiry by $1M. The total cost now sits at $3.5M.
  • In addition to needing an extended timeline and additional funding, the inquiry has been plagued with criticism.
    • In November 2019, Ecojustice discovered that inquiry Commissioner Steve Allen had made donations to the UCP party, raising questions of bias in the inquiry process.
    • In March 2020, Ecojustice sent a letter to the commissioner highlighting secrecy in the inquiry process and urging more transparency.
    • In January 2021, Ecojustice issued a statement condemning Allen’s decision to use Alberta taxpayer dollars to commission reports containing climate denialism and skepticism.

About

Ecojustice uses the power of the law to defend nature, combat climate change, and fight for a healthy environment. Its strategic, public interest lawsuits and advocacy lead to precedent-setting court decisions and law and policy 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.

For media inquiries

Thais Freitas, communication specialist | Ecojustice
tfreitas@ecojustice.ca, 1-800-926-7744, ext. 277

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