Call and response: Public inquiry asks stakeholders to give feedback on newly commissioned reports

By Catherine Griwkowsky January 15, 2021

The public inquiry into anti-energy campaigns, headed by commissioner Steve Allan, published a series of new reports Thursday — along with a set of book-report-style questions asking for stakeholders’ responses.

The back-and-forth is the latest endeavour in the inquiry’s engagement process and was established to help it make policy recommendations for its final report, per the website.

The reports the inquiry commissioned include a background on the ideology of environmental philanthropic organizations by University of Calgary political science professor Barry Cooper; a report on foreign-funded activism against Canada’s energy sector from industry group Energy In Depth and its Canadian affiliate; and another by Dr. T.L. Nemeth on the conspiracy of the “Great Transition.”

Forty-seven individuals and groups were invited to be “Participants for Commentary” but only 11 opted in before the deadline. Those who did were asked whether they “agree or disagree” with the various reports’ conclusions and propositions, among other questions.

Cooper’s report discusses the concepts of “leaderless resistance” and “lone-wolf” attackers who have the “expectation that their violent activity will lead to apocalyptic transformations of reality.”

“There is no reason to think that a similar dynamic does not have the same effect on environmental radicals,” it states, noting the “difficulty of discussing practical matters with organized environmentalists” and the biases of Laurentian elites.

In 2008, Cooper was the subject of an internal audit at the University of Calgary following allegations he dedicated more than $500,000 in research funds to the activities of “Friends of Science” during a federal election. “Friends of Science” is a Calgary-based organization that denies human activity is the main cause of climate change.

The inquiry’s communications consultant Alan Boras told AB Today the opinions expressed in the reports do not represent the conclusions of the $3.5-million inquiry.

NDP Leader Rachel Notley said the inquiry’s commissioning of “anti-science” reports undermines the oil and gas industry’s reputation.

“Mr. Allan needs to be stopped from doing dumb things that hurt Albertans,” Notley said. “Commissioning those reports is among those things.”

The 11 “Participants for Commentary” were also asked to share their opinion on a handful of books, such as 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.

Respondent says reports exhibit ‘textbook climate denialism’
While Boras said the inquiry hasn’t decided whether it will release all 11 responses, one participant got the jump and made his answers public yesterday.

University of Calgary associate law professor Martin Olszynski’s input criticized the reports as “textbook climate denialism” and “replete with generalizations, speculation, conjecture, and even

Olszynski confirmed the costs of the commissioned reports with Allan: Dr. Cooper was paid $6,125; Dr. Nemeth was paid $27,840; and Energy in Depth was paid US$50,000 for their work.

University of Alberta energy and environmental economist Andrew Leach said there is some truth to the UCP government’s claim of a coordinated campaign to stop the development of the Alberta oilsands, but called the new reports “cartoonish.”

“I almost can’t process it,” Leach said.

Potential extension?
Boras told AB Today the pandemic has hindered the inquiry’s progress, but it hasn’t decided whether to request another extension for its final report.

Currently, that report is due to the government by January 31 and to the public 90 days later.

Cabinet signed off on a three-month extension in October last year following a change to the inquiry’s terms of references. It had originally been due by last July but was also granted an earlier extension and $1-million bump to its budget.

Environment Minister Jason Nixon’s office said it has not received a request for an extension and expects the report by the end of the month “as cabinet directed.”