Alberta’s repeatedly-delayed inquiry into alleged foreign funded anti-energy campaigns says it has started to send notices to about 40 organizations asking for them to respond to what it has found.
It’s the first time commissioner Steve Allan has publicly acknowledged sending out potential findings to the inquiry’s subjects.
But he says the unnamed organizations are to keep that information confidential, at least for the time being.
“Initially about 40 organizations are being sent confidential notices asking for their response to potential findings of the inquiry that pertain specifically to each of them,” Allan said in a statement issued late Friday.
Those organization now have until no later than July 16 to submit their responses, just two weeks before the commissioner’s deadline for the final report.
The inquiry into alleged foreign-funded special interests who target Alberta’s energy industry has been dogged by criticisms and setbacks since Allan was tapped to lead it by Premier Jason Kenney in July 2019.
Allan has since been granted four deadline extensions and is now expected to deliver his final report by the end of July, a year late and $1 million over budget for a final $3.5-million price tag.
The inquiry says information provided to the organizations are to be kept confidential. The materials can only be used for the inquiry’s purposes “unless and until they become part of the public record,” the release said.
Allan intends to rely on public information to reach his findings, including websites, public statements and public filings with regulatory authorities, the inquiry said in the news release.
The provincial government and some industry leaders have said Canadian environmental charities that accept U.S. funding are part of a plot against Alberta’s energy industry.
Critics have said the inquiry was created for partisan political purposes and was tainted by bias from the outset.
Last month, a judge dismissed EcoJustice’s attempt to quash the inquiry. Court of Queen’s Bench Justice Karen Horner said the environmental law firm failed to prove the inquiry was called to intimidate charities that raised concerns about the oilsands.
Kenney has blamed the attempt to seek judicial review for stalling the inquiry.
The inquiry’s terms of reference state Allan must provide affected participants reasonable opportunity to comment and correct any details, but offers no specificity on what amounts to reasonable.