Alberta’s Inquiry into Foreign Funded Interference in Canada’s Energy Industry

Last year, mere months after being elected, the UCP government in Alberta announced that it was launching its promised inquiry into the alleged foreign funding of anti-oil and gas groups.

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The need for such an investigation had been driven by the findings of Independent researcher Vivian Krause who had done ten years of leg work looking into these organizations.

The inquiry hired forensic accountant Steve Allan to officially investigate the allegations that foreign money had been flowing to groups attempting to disrupt Canadian energy projects. However, last week, a change in the terms of reference for the inquiry sparked outrage at the investigation.

This anger was directed at a change that made it clear that Mr. Allan would not be fact-checking every claim by anti-oil and gas groups.

This anger is misplaced since the original terms of reference never stated that the scope of the inquiry was to investigate every claim. The purpose of it was, and always has been, to investigate funding sources of organizations who have historically opposed oil and gas development and verify the research done by Krause.

Allan was simply re-stating that he, alone, does not have the physical capacity to review and conduct studies on every claim made by foreign-funded anti-oil and gas organizations. He is an accountant, not a researcher nor an expert in everything oil and gas. It would require millions more dollars and time to conduct these types of studies. Though it must be noted that time and money is something these anti-oil and gas groups have plenty of but that doesn’t prevent them from using misleading statements to make their argument against Alberta’s valuable hydrocarbon resources.

Quite frankly, the change to the terms of reference for the inquiry into foreign funding reaffirms its central mission: to investigate sources of that foreign funding. And there is no shortage of foreign funding.

MakeWay, back when it was known as Tides Canada, received frequent grants from outside of Canada to stop resource development. Indeed, they changed their name to MakeWay a few months ago to shift away from the negative public perception they have received. But don’t worry, even with the changed name, and reduced ties to its American namesake, MakeWay will still receive foreign grants.

Let’s look at one example of a group funded by MakeWay: the curious case of Ecojustice. Ecojustice is an environmental law organization that has historically targeted the oil and gas industry and has filed an injunction to stop the Alberta government from pursuing the Allan inquiry. This is especially interesting as according to their CRA filings, in 2018 alone Ecojustice received $1,046,974 from sources outside of Canada.

The $3.5 million being spent on this inquiry is just a drop in the bucket compared to the millions being spent on campaigns to stop Canadian oil and gas production. Environmental activists have publicly admitted that the “Tar Sands Campaign” spent $40 million in less than a decade. The economic harm that these campaigns against oil and natural gas and pipelines have done to Canada is enormous.

The reality is, when these anti-oil and gas organizations abroad funnel money to anti-oil and gas groups in Canada to stop resource development, they let countries with less environmental regulation fill the market gap. Despite predictions about oil and gas demand being permanently stunted, there will still be the need for it. Instead of letting those who pollute more and disregard the environment, anti-oil and gas groups should applaud Canada’s commitment and progress.

Canada is the best in the world at responsibly developing oil and gas resources, its time to stop being penalized by foreign-funded organizations whose motivations aren’t entirely clear.

Cody Ciona is the Research and Issues Coordinator for the Canadian Energy Network.

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