First, we had Steve Allan’s Report on the (not so public) public inquiry’s findings with respect to the role of foreign funding into Anti-Alberta Energy Campaigns.
Then we had the Kenney government’s press release which said the Allan Report confirmed “hundreds of millions of foreign dollars were used to block [Alberta’s] oil and gas development, affecting the lives and livelihoods of Albertans.” Not true.
Finally we had the press conference with Energy minister Savage who declared Albertans had a right to be upset and she was mad. Good, let’s have a tantrum.
The whole thing was like watching Peter Sellers as the bumbling Inspector Clouseau in a Pink Panther movie, one stupid misstep after another.
It took Mr Allan two years and $3.5 M to determine that:
- Some environmental nonprofit/charitable organizations (ENGOs) participated in anti-Alberta energy campaigns (AAEC) and
- Between 2003 and 2019 some of these ENGOs may have received foreign funding in the amount of $54M (that’s an annual average of $3.4 M, or slightly less than the cost of this public inquiry and roughly one-tenth the annual cost of the War Room).
Mr Allan concluded foreign funding for AAEC was “significant.”
Really? Charitable giving in 2020 was $169B. Of that 2% or $3.38B went to environmental causes. Mr Allan, a forensic accountant, and his million-dollar team from Deloittes tracked $3.4M/year to foreign funding. That’s hardly “significant.”
Mr Allan also found that:
- Participation in AAEC is not illegal or improper, and such conduct is not to be impugned. Indeed, it’s an exercise of one’s freedoms of expression, assembly, and association and AAEC are lawful and protected in our democracy.
- AAEC may have played a role but were not the sole cause of cancellations or delays of some oil and gas developments because much of the reduced investment was due to natural market forces and the economic loss was impossible to quantify.
At this point Mr Allan could have declared mission accomplished and moved on. Instead he continued for hundreds of pages and found:
- ENGOs work together “in concert” and are like “an industry unto themselves.” This sounded ominous until Mr Allan said ENGOs are wise to work collaboratively and to seek to be financially sustainable.
- Land conservations polices arising out of Agenda 21 (a 1992 UN environmental summit treaty to which Canada is a signatory) were designed to protect forests and marine life, however ENGOs used them to “block” oil and gas developments. Could it be that “blocking” development in conservation areas protects forests and marine life?
- Initiatives like the Great Bear Rainforest, the Tanker Ban, the Mackenzie Valley 5-year Action Plan and the Boreal Forest Plan “ring-fenced” Alberta. This is not entirely true given that these initiatives impact the west, north-west, and north-east and have no impact on oil and gas developments to the east and south of Alberta.
- The Wetlands Restoration Program (Ducks Unlimited) did not stop development. Coincidentally Premier Kenney’s former principal secretary became the CEO of Ducks Unlimited Canada this summer.
- $103M in foreign funding went to First Nations but Mr Allan did not investigate this funding “due to the complex nature of First Nation issues.”
- Foreign funding was directed to litigation and political activism. Mr Allan did not provide any examples involving Canadian ENGOs.
And then Mr Allan really slipped his moorings.
The Clouseau bits
Mr Allan’s report is replete with innuendo, speculation, and non sequitur.
For example, he says extremism is dangerous, Canadian society is becoming polarized, and trust in institutions is at an all-time low. True, but what does this have to do with the subject of this public inquiry?
Then there’s Mr Allan’s exposition about the Strategy. Apparently, the Strategy evolved from a focus on the oil sands to a global drive to wean the planet off fossil fuels. It sneaked up on governments and the industry and caught them off guard. This allowed the Strategy to “grow and develop.” By the time you’re finished reading this section you’d swear Mr Allan was talking about the Borg.
The Allan report is padded with reprinted news stories, lengthy book excerpts from environmentalists and pop-star statisticians, screen shots from Twitter, Facebook and various websites, and anecdotal reports of Al Gore TED talks. None of which could be considered probative.
It sinks to a new level of whacky when Mr Allan describes a report (complete with illustrations) explaining that NGOs can be characterized as sea creatures. They’re sharks, orcas, sea lions and dolphins. Greenpeace is a shark; Pembina is a dolphin. What this has to do with the foreign funding of AAEC is anybody’s guess.
The best Clouseau moment comes when Mr Allan shoots Premier Kenney in the foot with a scathing attack on the War Room which he said lacks credibility, is almost universally criticized, and may be damaged beyond repair. On that we can agree.
Mr Allan set out six recommendations. One calls for greater transparency and accountability for ENGOs and would involve rewriting parts of the Canadian and US tax acts to “level the playing field” so industry and the government could keep up. The others are simply a rehash of recommendations that have appeared elsewhere.
And two years and $3.5 million later we’re left wondering is that all there is?
Because if this was the best Mr Allan and the team at Deloittes could come up with we’d have been better served by Inspector Clouseau. At least he’s funny.