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Environmental law group to challenge Alberta oil inquiry in court

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Environmental law group to challenge Alberta oil inquiry in court

An environmental charity is arguing an inquiry into alleged international-led campaigns targeting the oil and gasoline sector situation out to mark green groups as anti-Alberta and disrupt their funding sooner than hearing any proof — accusations government lawyers recount are with out merit.

Ecojustice is asking a Calgary derive to shut down the inquiry, arguing it’s portion of a “fight-support” approach the United Conservatives touted during the 2019 election campaign and modified into fashioned for an spoiled motive.

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“Right here’s a political gunfight intended to aim, intimidate and injure organizations that preserve views that modify from these of the federal government,” lawyer Barry Robinson told Court of Queen’s Bench Justice Karen Horner by video conference Thursday.


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Public inquiries are meant to investigate tragedies or “worrisome matters of public order,” and the inquiry headed by forensic accountant Steve Allan does neither, Robinson argued.

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But government lawyer Doreen Mueller told court it “addresses a subject of public order relevant to the efficient and responsible pattern of Alberta’s pure belongings.”

Mueller added that a “honest and customary sense” reading of the picture-in-council that fashioned the inquiry does no longer reinforce the conclusion that it’s a long way meant to aim any yelp individuals or groups.

“The commissioner has no vitality to purchase away rights, impose sanctions or in any other case punish a subject of the inquiry.”

Ecojustice additionally argues there is an inexpensive apprehension that the inquiry is biased.

When the inquiry modified into announced in July 2019, Premier Jason Kenney talked about Alberta had been the aim of a “propaganda campaign to defame the energy industry and landlock Alberta’s belongings” and that it modified into funded by “certain U.S. foundations,” Robinson told court.

“These are all talked about as known sooner than any proof has been place sooner than the inquiry,” Robinson talked about. Ecojustice’s scrutinize is that later tweaks to the inquiry’s phrases of reference don’t allay bias concerns, he added.

At a information conference Thursday, Kenney accused organizations of taking up to tens of thousands and thousands in international money to assassinate proposed pipelines, “intentionally attacking the lifeblood of Alberta’s economy.”

“Now we maintain every apt to glance transparency on what’s going on.”

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Robinson additionally talked about Kenney and his celebration talked about again and again that the inquiry’s outcomes might well perhaps be former to challenge the charitable build apart of certain groups and disrupt their funding from government sources.

Government lawyer Peter Buijs talked about there’s nothing spoiled about an inquiry supporting future actions, which is ready to be challenged if and when they happen.

Robinson instructed that the phrase “anti-Alberta” in the inquiry’s phrases of reference is problematic.

“The freedom to yelp opinions, perspectives and positions that modify from the federal government of Alberta or the Alberta oil and gasoline industry with out being labelled as anti-Alberta… is completely critical in a free and democratic society.”


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Buijs countered that “anti-Alberta” refers to campaigns against its energy sector, no longer yelp groups or individuals.

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Robinson additionally told court that the inquiry’s commissioner donated to and actively campaigned for Doug Schweitzer in the 2019 election campaign. Schweitzer would months later, as justice minister, decry a “international-funded misinformation campaign” during a information conference to stutter the inquiry, court heard.

“It might well possibly perhaps be very advanced for any moderately informed bystander to scrutinize Mr. Allan as sufficiently independent,” Robinson talked about.

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The Alberta government argues politicians’ partisan comments are distinct from Allan’s presumed impartiality.

Ecojustice is additionally arguing that the inquiry deals with matters inaugurate air Alberta’s jurisdiction, similar to international and interprovincial flows of money and regulation of charities.

Buijs talked about these complications are peripheral to the main crux of the inquiry.

“Right here’s directed toward protecting Alberta’s oil and gasoline industry,” Buijs talked about. “That is the main center of attention or the dominant motive.”


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The deadline for Allan to whine his describe to the federal government has been delayed three instances and the inquiry’s budget has been increased by $1 million to $3.5 million. Ecojustice has asked Horner to picture that its launch be barred until she delivers a ruling.

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Lawyers for Allan and a consortium of expert-industry interveners are to characterize at the hearing Friday.

— With information from The Canadian Press’ Dean Bennett

© 2021 The Canadian Press

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Environmental law group to challenge Alberta oil inquiry in court