Opinion: Investigation into anti-Alberta energy campaigns was an abuse of power


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After more than two years and at a cost of $ 3.5 million, the final report of the “Public Inquiry into Anti-Alberta Energy Campaigns,” commissioned by the Government of Alberta, found that environmental groups have failed. had done nothing wrong.

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But by using state power in an attempt to intimidate and silence citizens and civil society groups, the Government of Alberta has done a lot of harm.

He was prepared to do so even at the expense of the long-term interests of the citizens of Alberta and in disregard of democratic standards and long-respected legal rights in that country. He was willing to do so for the benefit of a small group of private companies and stakeholders. And now, when the investigation has failed to deliver the bogeyman she was hoping for, she’s ready to hijack the findings to involve heinous acts where none has been found.

Climate change is happening right now across Canada. It is caused by fossil fuels. We are all going to suffer as the situation worsens. Only the government has sufficient tools to act on the scale necessary to avoid this crisis and create a viable ecological and economic future.

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The Government of Alberta has spent a lot of time, and even more public money, trying to convince Albertans that the future of oil and gas would be bright – if we and other Canadians could be prevented from saying these truths.

It is the right of Canadians to say these things. We have the right to invite others to join us, to engage, to urge and demand that governments act to end this crisis, to write letters, to broadcast announcements, distribute leaflets, go to court, initiate consultations, meet leading politicians, organize marches and rallies. Indeed, we do not know how citizens can otherwise influence public policy in a free and democratic society.

And, what’s more, we have the right to fundraise to do these things. As the survey itself has documented, oil and gas companies are certainly not shy about deploying billions to pursue their political agenda – far more than the amount of funding raised by Canadian environmental groups.

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However, Prime Minister Jason Kenney and his ministers have remained silent on the question of the sources of funding for the oil industry and the massive lobbying operation of its allies. This is because they are not sincerely concerned about the influence of international funding on Canadian politics. They try to delegitimize the right of those who disagree with them to participate in the normal functioning of policy making, public discourse and civic engagement.

But, we all know there is no significant track record of companies spontaneously reducing their pollution to make our air and water cleaner and their own employees safer. If we value a clean and healthy environment – and we know Canadians value it – we will have to demand it out loud and over and over again. It has taken a tremendous amount of effort on the part of citizens and civil society groups to remove the smog from our skies, the garbage dumped from our water. The work continues and tackling climate change is another battle to clean up the mess left by business.

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The threat of the Government of Alberta’s attack on our ability to protect our environment and our rights is not moot. Staff and supporters of environmental organizations named in the investigation have been physically threatened, and the organizations’ reputations have been damaged and defamed. And time, so precious in the race against climate change, has been lost.

Canadians need to realize the risks of this blatant abuse of power and not dismiss it out of hand just because it was carried out in such a buffoonish way. This was a cynical political ploy, not a real investigation. It’s dangerous, it should never have happened and it should never happen again.

Tim Gray is Executive Director of Environmental Defense Canada.

Devon Page is Executive Director, Ecojustice.

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