Skip to main content

The Syncrude tar sands plant and tailings pond at their tar sands operation north of Fort McMurray, Alta., in 2011.Todd Korol/Reuters

The commissioner overseeing Alberta’s public inquiry into the funding of environmental charities hand-picked and sent to participants a swath of papers, books and documents that one contributor has labelled “textbook examples of climate change denialism,” asking groups to comment on them as part of his investigation.

The inquiry was launched in 2019 as part of an election promise from Premier Jason Kenney, who has claimed that foreign foundations have poured millions into campaigns targeting Alberta’s energy sector. Many of the environmental groups targeted by Mr. Kenney’s government say U.S. funding accounts for just a small portion of their overall budgets.

Commissioner Steve Allan selected the articles and research papers to to “encourage discussion around the matters that are before the inquiry,” said his spokesman, Alan Boras.

But opposition leader Rachel Notley said Thursday Mr. Allan’s move amounted to using taxpayer dollars to “support and solicit anti-science, climate-denying ridiculousness.”

She called on the UCP government to fire Mr. Allan and end the inquiry.

“I think that it sends a horrible message to international investors. It undermines our energy industry,” she said.

“Quite frankly, there should be an inquiry into the inquiry, except for the fact that that itself would be another waste of money.”

Martin Olszynski, a University of Calgary assistant professor in environmental law who is participating in the inquiry, says the documents are “textbook examples of climate change denialism” that “minimize or outright dismiss the reality and seriousness of climate change” and are “replete with generalizations, speculation, conjecture and even conspiracy.”

Some of the papers were written specifically for Mr. Allan’s inquiry, including one that asserts that various groups have launched a “comprehensive international assault on Alberta’s and Canada’s energy industry” with “the ultimate goal of ending capitalism and our modern way of life.”

The report, penned by U.K.-based historian Tammy Nemeth, takes aim at Canada’s federal government for supporting a progressive movement which “abhors Alberta and the hydrocarbon industry that powers the province and country and relishes the idea of their demise.” It also criticizes the climate change actions of various non-government organizations, the foundations that fund them, the media and academia.

Another focuses on environmental philanthropy. It is penned by University of Calgary professor Barry Cooper, who was at the centre of a 2008 university audit that found that donations to two research accounts at the school were used to pay expenses for Friends of Science, a Calgary-based group against the Kyoto Protocol.

Also on the reading list from Mr. Allan are books called False Alarm: How Climate Change Costs Us Trillions, Hurts the Poor, and Fails to Fix the Climate and Apocalypse Never: Why Environmental Alarmism Hurts Us All.

Mr. Allan’s report has faced multiple delays and a change in its terms of reference by the Alberta cabinet. Mr. Allan has been granted numerous extensions and was given an extra $1-million last year, representing a budget increase of 40 per cent over the original cost of $2.5-million.

Much of the inquiry has been conducted behind closed doors, making the update about the reading materials sent to participants the first time the public has been given a glimpse of its work.

Mr. Allan’s report is now due on Jan. 31. Energy Minister Sonya Savage said in a statement her office has received no request for a further extension, and expects the report by the end of the month.

Mr. Boras wouldn’t comment on whether the deadline will be met.

“We are all living in the constraints that exist with respect to the public-health measures. Work continues,” he told The Globe and Mail on Thursday.

With files from James Keller

Our Morning Update and Evening Update newsletters are written by Globe editors, giving you a concise summary of the day’s most important headlines. Sign up today.