1. What is the legal foundation of the Inquiry?
This inquiry is constituted under Alberta's Public Inquiries Act. The Commissioner conducts the Inquiry in accordance with the terms of the Public Inquiries Act and relevant principles of natural justice. The Inquiry is distinct and independent of conventional government operations, giving the Commissioner the freedom and authority to hire advisors to execute the Mandate as established in the Inquiry’s Terms of Reference. This Inquiry is constructed to enable in-depth research of complex financial and public policy matters, and inform the public on the issues identified in the Mandate. The Inquiry’s budget is $3.5 million.
2. What is the nature of the Inquiry?
Public inquiries are created by governments to address a matter of public concern and designed to operate at arm's length from government. They must be independent in order to carry out their mandates. Inquiry independence is critical in order to ensure fairness, avoid a reasonable apprehension of political influence and protect the integrity of the inquiry's work and recommendations.
3. What is the Commissioner’s mandate during the Inquiry?
The Commissioner's mandate is set forth in section 2 of the Inquiry's Terms of Reference.
4. When did the Inquiry start?
Work began on the Inquiry on July 4, 2019 after it was approved by Order in Council 125/2019.
5. When will the Inquiry conclude and issue a final report?
The Inquiry is scheduled to end on May 31, 2021 and the Commissioner is to submit to the Minister of Energy a final report no later than May 31, 2021. The Minister is to publish the final report within 90 days of receiving it from the Commissioner.
6. What is the format for the Inquiry?
The Inquiry has two phases:
Phase 1, an investigative and research phase. In Phase 1, the Commissioner and his team are researching and reviewing various reports, literature, and other information related to the issues, as well as engaging with individuals and organizations with potentially relevant information.
An interim report addressing progress and next steps was submitted to the Minister of Energy on January 31, 2020. The interim report did not contain findings on the matters before the Commissioner.
Phase 2 continues the research phase and includes a formal Engagement Process with various parties who have an interest in contributing to the matters before the Inquiry.
This process is defined in the Rules for Procedure and Practice, published in September 2020. This formal Engagement Process has two segments: Participants for Commentary and Participants for Response. The Commentary process invited interested persons and organizations to apply for standing with the Inquiry in order to provide their perspectives to the Inquiry on policy questions identified by the Commissioner as falling within his mandate. The Response process is directed at providing notice and a reasonable opportunity for persons and organizations to respond to evidence which may form the basis of an adverse finding against that person or organization. The Response process ensures that potentially affected persons and organizations have a fair opportunity to adduce evidence and make submissions in respect of the evidence while maintaining a cost-effective and efficient process.
7. Why has the Inquiry, which had an original completion date of July 2, 2020, taken so long?
The completion date for the Inquiry had to be extended due to a number of factors. First, the sheer quantity of information that the Inquiry has reviewed as part of the investigations and research in Phase 1 required a significant amount of time for collection and analysis. The Inquiry examined a range of information, including public content such as: financial statements, regulatory filings, organizations’ websites, public portions of tax filings, reporting by third parties, annual and quarterly reports, news releases, public statements, strategic documents, news stories, statements by organizations’ representatives. It also conducted informal interviews, and commissioned reports on areas of potential interest to the Inquiry.
The Inquiry submitted its interim report to the Minister of Energy as scheduled on Jan 31, 2020. Commissioner Allan requested amendments to the Terms of Reference to address the wide scope of the mandate established by the original Terms of Reference.
Following amendments to the Terms of Reference on June 25, 2020 and August 5, 2020, the Inquiry established in September 2020 the Legal Framework, namely the Rules for Procedure and Practice, accompanied by the Commissioner’s Ruling on Interpretation of the Terms of Reference, which set the course for Phase 2.
One segment of the formal engagement, the Participant for Commentary process, was conducted during the fall of 2020, and completed January 13, 2021.
On January 29, 2021, Cabinet issued an Order in Council extending the deadline for delivery of the final report of the Inquiry to May 31, 2021. This extension provides adequate time to undertake and complete the Participant for Response process.
8. What is the Engagement Process of the Alberta Inquiry? What is its purpose?
This process is described in more detail in the response to the previous question and provides a framework for public submissions to the Inquiry, formal engagement and participation in the Inquiry by various parties who have an interest in contributing to the matters before the Inquiry. The purpose of this engagement is to assist the Commissioner with gathering information that may inform the findings or recommendations of the Commissioner and permit parties who may be impacted by the Inquiry’s findings or recommendations a reasonable opportunity to comment and respond to matters that may affect their interests.
9. How will the Commissioner engage participants?
This Inquiry’s formal Engagement Process involves two streams:
Participants for Commentary are persons that are granted standing to make submissions in response to topics identified by the Commissioner, with a view to informing the findings or recommendations of the Commissioner.
The Participants for Commentary segment invited 47 persons or organizations to apply for Standing at the Inquiry, and comment on a package of materials, and opened the invitation to apply for standing to any persons or organization interested in the subject matter of the Inquiry. Eleven people/organizations applied for Standing, and some submitted comments. The remainder did not apply for Standing on the proposed terms. The Participants for Commentary is closed and an update is here.
Participants for Response are persons or organizations that may be subject to a finding of misconduct or may otherwise be the subject of a potential materially adverse factual finding in the final report. The Participants for Response process provides those persons and organizations with notice of potential findings that may be made in regard to them and an opportunity to put forward evidence and make submission to the Commissioner on the evidence, prior to the Commissioner rendering a decision in the final report.
10. How long will this Engagement Process take?
The Participant for Response process will begin in March 2021 with the delivery of notices to persons and organizations advising them of a potential finding raised by the evidence before the Inquiry and providing them with an opportunity to respond to the evidence and/or put forward evidence of their own. The Commissioner will then consider the totality of the evidence before him and make findings in the final report of the Inquiry.
11. Why did the Inquiry commission reports?
From the outset, the Alberta Inquiry has worked to obtain a broad range of perspectives on the mandate for the Inquiry and to inform recommendations that the Inquiry may make in accordance with its mandate. The Commissioned Reports do not form part of the body of evidence upon which the Commissioner will consider whether to make any findings in relation to any specific persons or organizations. Rather, the Commissioned Reports were intended to provide a basis for discussion and engagement with Participants for Commentary on perspectives and policy views. In a Cover letter and Addendum, the Commissioner asked specific questions on some of the content, and invited Participants to provide additional comments on other issues they consider to be relevant to the mandate of the Inquiry, as set out in the Statement on Interpretation, or to draw the Inquiry’s attention to any additional material on related topics.
12. Does the Commissioner endorse the positions expressed in the content and positions described in the package of materials and reports provided to Participants for Commentary, including expressed views on climate change, descriptions of campaigns to obstruct oil and gas and environmental philanthropy?
In providing materials to the Participants for Commentary, the Commissioner clearly stated the information and opinions expressed in the reports and other content do not represent findings or positions taken by the Inquiry, but were given to Participants for Commentary to provide a platform to obtain perspectives and positions on policy issues of potential interest to the Inquiry. Participants for Commentary were invited to comment on certain aspects of the reports and other content, as well as to comment more generally regarding the subject matter of the Inquiry.
To be clear, the Commissioner does not consider the science of climate change to be part of his mandate under the Terms of Reference, and he does not intend to make any findings of fact respecting climate change in his Final Report.
13. Will the Commissioner be compelling witnesses to give evidence or produce documents?
Should witnesses refuse to speak with the Commissioner then, where appropriate, the Commissioner has the power to summon any person in the province as witnesses and require them to give evidence or produce documents. Where necessary, the Commissioner may also pursue the attendance or testimony of persons located outside the province of Alberta. To date, the Commissioner has not exercised any of these powers.
14. Why is the Inquiry being conducted primarily through a written process, without public hearings?
Given the broad subject matter of the Inquiry, and the fact that much of the relevant material is in written form and can be retrieved from publicly available sources, the Commissioner considers that a written response process will achieve a more efficient and cost-effective process. It is anticipated that holding public hearings would take more time, be more cost intensive, and less efficient.
From the outset, the Inquiry has provided an opportunity for public engagement through the submissions page on this website.
This Engagement Process strikes a balance between the need for an efficient and cost-effective Inquiry, and ensuring parties are given a fair and reasonable opportunity to respond to matters that may affect their interests.
While the Commissioner anticipates that the Inquiry will be conducted primarily through a written process, the Rules for Procedure and Practice permit the Commissioner to undertake other forms of engagement, if the circumstances require.
15. Has the Inquiry found foreign funds directed to stop Alberta oil and gas development?
The Inquiry has not made any findings and is not in a position to make any definitive findings or issue recommendations until it has completed its investigation and research, including the Engagement Process, which will permit parties who may be subject to an adverse finding a fair and reasonable opportunity to respond to potential findings so that the Inquiry can take those responses into account before making any findings.
The findings and recommendations of the Inquiry will be set out in the Final Report.
16. What were the sources for your research to date?
To assist in determining the framework within which engagement will proceed, the Inquiry has examined a range of information, including extensive material available from public sources such as: financial statements, regulatory filings, organizations’ websites, public portions of tax filings, reporting by third parties, annual and quarterly reports, news releases, public statements, strategic documents, news stories, statements by organizations’ representatives. It has also conducted informal interviews, and has commissioned reports on areas of potential interest to the Inquiry.
An important aspect of the Inquiry is to ensure parties identified as potentially being subject to a finding of misconduct or who may otherwise be the subject of a potential materially adverse finding in the final report are provided an opportunity to respond to information collected before any decision is made.
Source information relied upon by the Inquiry in making any findings or recommendations will be referred to in the Inquiry’s final report.
17. How will the research and prior publications of Vivian Krause impact the Inquiry’s work?
The Inquiry is examining and exploring a variety of sources to gather relevant information and evidence, and the prior work of Vivian Krause is one such potential source. Importantly, the Commissioner is approaching the Inquiry Mandate with an independent and open mind and will subject all available information and evidence gathered to objective and impartial scrutiny. The Commissioner is a Chartered Professional Accountant, whose practice included a focus on investigative and forensic accounting. The Commissioner's education, training and experience, as well as that of his staff and advisors, equip him and the Inquiry team to conduct a thorough, independent and impartial assessment of the relevance and value of Ms. Krause’s work, as well as any other relevant sources.
18. How do I get in touch with the Commissioner if I have a question or concern, or if I wish to speak to him?
Questions or comments can be sent to the Inquiry at: [email protected]*
All questions and comments will be reviewed by Inquiry staff and may be responded to by the Commissioner or his staff.
19. Is the Commissioner available for media interviews?
There is very little the Commissioner can share with the media beyond what is contained on this website. The Commissioner must not only act impartially but must also ensure he avoids engaging in public debate or discourse that might impair the perception of impartiality. Accordingly, the Commissioner will not be granting media interviews.
The website will be updated when the Commissioner has information to share with the public.
20. Will the Inquiry respond to requests under the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (Alberta)?
The Inquiry is not designated a "public body" under this legislation and is therefore not subject to requests under the FIPPA.
21. Who is assisting the Commissioner?
Various parties are assisting the Commissioner, including legal counsel, forensic accountants, information technology staff, researchers/investigators, as well as other staff hired to assist in managing and administering the Inquiry.
22. Were the hired firms subject to standard government procurement processes?
No. Consistent with Section 3 of the Public Inquiries Act, the Commissioner has the discretion to engage Inquiry staff he identifies as having his trust and confidence, and the necessary range of expertise and resources to handle the complex mandate set by the Terms of Reference. Based on the Commissioner's more than 40 years of forensic and insolvency accounting experience, and the confidence and professional trust in experts he has worked with, Commissioner Allan has selected Dentons Canada LLP, and David Wachowich Q.C. of Rose LLP as Commission Counsel. Deloitte Forensic Inc. was hired to provide forensic accounting support to the Commissioner and his counsel. Forensic accounting is a significant and important element of the subject matter set by the Terms of Reference.
23. What happened to the conflict of interest allegations involving former Alberta Minister of Justice and Solicitor General Doug Schweitzer’s appointment of Inquiry Commissioner Steve Allan?
Alberta’s Ethics Commission and former Court of Queen’s Bench Justice, Hon. Marguerite Trussler, Q.C. undertook an investigation and in July 2019 found there was no conflict of interest.
The Ethics Commissioner’s written decision is here.
24. What is the Inquiry's relationship to the Province of Alberta's Canadian Energy Centre, which has also been called the ‘war room’?
The Inquiry is completely separate and independent from the Canadian Energy Centre. The Inquiry Commissioner’s mandate is distinct and governed by the Terms of Reference and the Public Inquires Act.
25. Are the Terms of Reference of the Inquiry public?
Yes. The amended Terms of Reference are here.
26. What is the result of Ecojustice's court application for an injunction to stay the Inquiry until the court has heard and ruled on Ecojustice’s application for a judicial review?
On November 26, 2020, Hon. Madame Justice K.M. Horner of the Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench dismissed the injunction application in her ruling.
27. What is the status of Ecojustice's court application for a judicial review?
That application is the subject of ongoing proceedings in the courts. The matter is being addressed before the Alberta Court of Queen's Bench, where the Application was filed and was heard on February 11 and 12, 2021. Madam Justice Horner reserved her decision and undertook best efforts to rule on the application prior to May 31, 2021.
28. What is the Commissioner's response to Ecojustice's court application for a judicial review and the injunction application?
The Commissioner’s response was conveyed and addressed in the court filings and hearings in February. It is not appropriate for the Commissioner to comment beyond the ongoing proceedings in the courts.
29. Will you require more than the present budget from the Government of Alberta if the Inquiry takes longer?
The Commissioner understands the need to conduct the Inquiry in as timely and cost effective a manner as possible. He also recognizes the need to obtain a broad set of perspectives to inform the Inquiry’s findings, and that findings made by the Inquiry could have significant impacts for persons and organizations subject to those findings, so that such persons and organizations must have a fair opportunity to respond prior to such findings being made.
The Commissioner has taken steps to balance these considerations, including by determining that engagement will proceed primarily in writing.
At the present time, the Commissioner has not sought a further increase in the Inquiry’s budget.
30. In recent months, some news stories report that the Commissioner will not be conducting fact checking – is that the case?
No, it is not accurate to say the Inquiry will not undertake any “fact-checking”. On the contrary, the Inquiry is conducting an in-depth factual examination to determine the facts regarding foreign funding of opposition to the timely, economic, efficient and responsible development of Alberta’s oil and gas resources.
The Amended Terms of Reference permit, but do not require, the Commissioner to examine whether misleading and false information was disseminated to advance or support opposition to Alberta oil and gas development.
However, evaluating whether a particular statement made in furtherance of opposition to Alberta oil and gas development is either misleading or false could require the Commission to undertake an extensive scientific inquiry. This inquiry could entail the calling and evaluation of evidence and experts on such matters as hydrology, air emissions, agrology, aquatic biology, wildlife biology, ornithology, chemical engineering, geology and seismology, among others. Furthermore, in order to be fair and meet the legal standards applicable to public inquiries, expert environmental evidence collected by the Inquiry and participants would need to be subjected to challenge.
If statements were found to be scientifically incorrect, there would need to be hearings on each statement made by each person or organization to examine the motive behind the statement(s), and whether such persons knew or should have known the statement was false or misleading.
The Commission does not have the budget, sufficient time or – without retaining additional subject matter specialists – the expertise to undertake such a process in a robust and comprehensive manner. Moreover, the Commissioner considers that the public interest engaged by his mandate can be served best by focusing efforts on the careful, forensic examination of allegations of foreign funding, based on available documentary evidence, and then affording affected parties an opportunity to address the relevant evidence, before definitive conclusions are reached and made public in a final report.