Dogwood’s response to the Alberta Inquiry

We’re more determined than ever to stop fossil fuel expansion in B.C.

Note: the rules of the Province of Alberta’s “Public Inquiry into Anti-Alberta Energy Campaigns” prevent us from sharing Commissioner Steve Allan’s draft report or the “evidence” he gathered against our organization. However, there is no rule against us posting our response. In the spirit of transparency, here is what we uploaded on Friday, July 16 2021 to the Dentons website used by the Inquiry.

Since 1999 Dogwood has advocated for political accountability, respect for Indigenous rights and a safe and healthy future for the people of B.C.

We were working on issues of urban sprawl and forestry reform on Vancouver Island when Enbridge brought the fight over oil sands expansion to our doorstep in the mid 2000s. Enbridge’s proposal for a diluted bitumen pipeline and supertanker terminal presented a direct risk to salmon rivers, Indigenous communities and our coastal economy.

We’re proud of the role we played in helping to organize British Columbians to peacefully and democratically defend our home from the Northern Gateway proposal. We have no intention of dropping our opposition to the publicly funded Trans Mountain oil tanker project, or the government-backed expansion of the fracking industry in B.C.

In fact, that work is more important than ever. Growing emissions from fossil fuel extraction and burning threaten the stable climate that sustains life in B.C. and around the world.

This summer began with an unprecedented heat wave that killed hundreds of British Columbians, triggered ferocious wildfires and left our shorelines stinking of death. The climate crisis is here and the stakes could not be higher. It has never been more clear that we need to transition to a decarbonized economy.

Does that make us anti-Alberta?

Although Dogwood is a B.C. group, almost everyone who works or volunteers with us has friends or family who live and work in Alberta. We recognize how dependent Alberta has become on coal, oil and gas. And we respect the right of Indigenous nations in Alberta, and Alberta workers, to develop their energy future.

But that doesn’t give oil companies with operations in Alberta a pass to unilaterally impose risks on other jurisdictions. Oil spills, like global climate breakdown, don’t respect provincial or national borders. And so the future of Alberta’s massive fossil fuel reserves are rightly a topic of discussion in B.C. and around the world. [1]

We reject the premise that by opposing a corporation’s proposal to export unrefined Alberta bitumen through our province, we are de facto “anti-Alberta”. We want to see our neighbours and family members employed in good-paying jobs with a bright future. For example, Alberta has huge renewable energy potential, with a skilled workforce who say they are ready to transition.

It is deeply disappointing to see profitable oil companies lay off thousands of Albertans while blaming external “enemies” for shifting energy markets. And it is frankly irresponsible for Premier Kenney’s government to use Albertans’ tax dollars to prosecute this false narrative, instead of preparing workers for the future. Calling people in other provinces “anti-Alberta” won’t rewind the clock or unlock another boom in the oil patch.

No reliable evidence

In forming his opinion that Dogwood and allies have participated in an “anti-Alberta energy campaign,” inquiry commissioner Steve Allan relied on a scattered collection of social media posts, media interviews and archived webpages going back over a decade. All of this is accessible by anyone using an Internet search engine. We stand by the contents today.

However, much of Allan’s “evidence” is irrelevant to Alberta and outside the scope of his inquiry. For example, Dogwood’s work on B.C. oil and gas subsidies, B.C. campaign finance reform, U.S. thermal coal exports through B.C., get-out-the-vote work in B.C. elections or B.C. ridings in federal elections, or job descriptions for employment at a B.C. nonprofit. [2]

Allan also incorrectly construes our work on local impacts of oil spills and climate change in B.C., including threats to endangered species and violations of Indigenous rights, as stemming from some animosity toward Alberta.

To put it plainly, orcas do not live in Alberta. Protecting them and their habitat is a matter of concern for people on the West Coast, but cannot fairly be described as “anti-Alberta.”

Allan also makes outright factual errors, some of which are the result of reliance on hearsay evidence. For example, he accuses us of organizing a letter-writing campaign against the Energy East pipeline based on someone’s Internet blog post. Reviewing the copy written by Dogwood staff shows this is simply incorrect. [3]

Allan also implies that our work on pipeline and oil tanker campaigns stems from international grants we received between 2011 and 2017, instead of the other way around. In fact, Dogwood’s “No Tankers” campaign was launched in Victoria in 2007, using Canadian donor money. This built on years of work with Indigenous nations in northern B.C. that long preceded the Enbridge proposal.

The success of our grassroots organizing work is what built a base of thousands of individual donors who sustain Dogwood today. It also attracted support from environmentally-minded foundations and philanthropists, especially in Vancouver and Seattle where concern runs high over climate change, West Coast oil spills and related issues.

Commissioner Allan’s errors, omissions and logical leaps could have been corrected through a simple phone call. At no point did Allan interview our staff or any other witnesses that we know of. There are no sworn affidavits related to Dogwood’s work or anything else that would be considered reliable evidence of the legal standard normally expected of a public inquiry.

Accordingly, we recommend that the following be excised from the final report: section 5, 8, 9, 11, 13 and 15.

These sections weaken the commissioner’s conclusions and lend the appearance of a rushed school assignment more than a serious public inquiry. In fact with no hearings, no sworn witnesses and no opportunity to cross-examine evidence, this cannot rightly be called a “public” inquiry at all.

Five days to respond

The commissioner’s PDF of screenshots, blog posts and pasted quotes pertaining to Dogwood was uploaded to a Dentons law firm server on Saturday, July 10. The deadline for us to respond was Friday, July 16. This gave us just five working days to review the evidence with our legal team and draft a response to an inquiry that has been ongoing for two years. That’s clearly unfair.

The commissioner himself has a deadline of July 30 to submit his final report to the Alberta energy minister. This gives him scarcely ten days to read responses from dozens of groups named in his draft report, digest their contents, correct errors, remove irrelevant sections and adjust his conclusions accordingly.

This undermines the very notion of procedural fairness. In his last letter to Dogwood, commissioner Allan said his mandate is “to deliver a fair, balanced and comprehensive report to Albertans”. Based on what we’ve seen, we are not optimistic on any of these points.

This timeframe and structure of the inquiry suggest the commissioner has already reached his conclusions, independent of any meaningful engagement of the groups named. We hope to be proven wrong.

What was the point of this inquiry?

Allan said in his last letter to Dogwood, “should I ultimately make a finding in respect of you, I will clearly declare that such a finding, if any, does not in any way suggest that the activities on which I might base a finding have been unlawful or dishonest, or that the conduct on which I might base a finding should in any way be impugned.”

So there you have it. As we’ve said all along, we did nothing wrong. After millions of dollars and multiple blown deadlines, it seems Albertans are about to be served a very thin gruel indeed. What was the point?

This inquiry was an election promise by a political party looking for scapegoats as Alberta goes through a seismic shift in global energy markets. Rather than confront the scale of the transition required, Jason Kenney’s government seems determined to keep shooting the messenger.

This report, flawed as it is, could easily be excerpted and taken out of context by bad-faith actors seeking to impugn Dogwood and many other groups doing essential work to prepare Canada for the climate crisis. Using the Inquiry Act to create a piece of political ammunition is a poor use of public resources, our time and commissioner Allan’s reputation.

We strongly urge the commissioner to stand on the right side of history and deliver the message back to the Alberta government that it’s time to stop delaying the inevitable. B.C. and the rest of Canada need Alberta to become a renewable energy powerhouse if we are to have a shot at a safe climate future.

 

Footnotes: 

[1] References re Greenhouse Gas Pollution Pricing Act, 2021 SCC 11 at paras 2, 12, and 187-190

[2] See Part III, section 5A, 5F, section 8a, 8j, Section 9B(2), 9D, E, F, I, J, K and L, section 11C, section 15

[3] See Section 13 and footnote 38

 

18 Responses to “Dogwood’s response to the Alberta Inquiry”

  1. Morbeau says:

    Great response! Thanks for sharing it. We look forward to seeing Commissioner Allen’s final report.

  2. Sharon Page says:

    Excellent response. I have relatives in Alberta and desperately want to see the province work force move to healthy renewable green jobs. As the glaciers melt the Alberta water sources will be severely compromised. Everyone, in all provinces, needs to switch to renewables immediately.

  3. Barry Bennett says:

    Another desperate act by an inquiry determined to prolong its mandate. More millions of Alberta taxpayer dollars spent on this embarrassment with little to show but gaffs and blunders. Enough is enough, pull the plug Kenney.

  4. Helen Ible says:

    Good job! It’s a shame it was necessary at all.

  5. Kenney’s inquisition like everything else he touches is an utter failure, based on ignorance

  6. Darwin Park says:

    Well done… a great response. Politically created provincial or municipal boundaries don’t change environmental and climate realities. The UCP is the worst Alberta Government in my 75 years and doesn’t speak for me or tens of thousands of others. It’s actions and policies since elected are destructive, dishonest and dangerous to the health and welfare of Albertans.

  7. C Sanderson says:

    Mic drop. Your response is concise, succinct and based on easily publicly available facts. Bravo Dogwood. Wake up Alberta, Canada and the world. The climate-emergency monster is at the door. It is time to stop pretending it’s nothing more than Fluffy your pet cat, scratching to be let in.

  8. Debbie says:

    The Alberta Gov’t and Albrrtans in the petroleum industry need to start realizing that the rest of the world is pulling away from fossil fuels and their need for Alberta oil and/or bitumen is constantly decreasing. They should be investing whatever profits they still have in renewable green energy. Are they going to wait until it’s too late and there is no money or workforce left to create new industries. Why don’t they invest in recycling our plastics into building products or some such thing????

  9. Brenden says:

    The part where they admit their conclusion is that you’ve done nothing illegal or wrong but somehow still deserve the negative label of ‘bad’ for Alberta… They are so, so delusional. Makes me think, the logic of Dogwood -cannot- be argued by logic. Their notions cannot even make sense to themselves. I think deep inside, they simply hate freedom, and hate indigenous people and hate the change of history and hate environmentalists. I don’t mean that lightly, I mean they have hate: they are racist and anti-indigenous and anti-ecology. They have totally deluded themselves that being supportive of ecologies and indigenous rights is “anti-alberta”, deluded and/or blinded by deep historical hatred.

  10. Kody says:

    I’m sorry but if you think the renewables job sector can even help soften the blow to Albertan jobs, then you are willfully being negligent and blind to how fee jobs are brought on by renewables.

    That’s not to speak of how unreliable batteries and capacitors for solar panels are or how heavy lithium and REM refining is let’s ignore all that and face facts that oil does need to transition out. But at the same time, you in BC, and the world proper, need oil. While you shutter Albertan production and transport, breaching tide water access rights, BC had increased its imports from other oil nations requiring massive emissions from gargantuan freighters. It’s forcing more oil by road and rail which leak more often and use far more energy to reach the coast than pipelines… Literally, this pipeline will ironically but down on emissions

    Because you can’t rely on renewables. I’m sorry, but we can’t here in this county. Maybe after decades of global warming we will be able to, but have you seen what a solar equipped roof looks like after give years of Albertan winter? Panels crack, shatter, drastically losing its efficiency or just killing the panel. The panel chassis itself separates it allows water into the roof by way of eroded seals. Turbines need to be locked in to avoid catastrophic ice damage

    And let’s face it, unless you are willing to find carbon capture and sequestering, especially using nuclear power… You’re obviously not worried about the future. We’ve already passed the CO2 PPM threshold for run away heating in 1999/2000, scientists then lifted the floor but didn’t re-adjust their models so we are quite literally doomed right now. Without pulling carbon out of the air we are a dead planet, none of these measures amount to anything without pulling carbon from the air in mass which means nuclear. But people still need to be able to heat and power their damn homes in the winter, which means nuclear

    Pretty sure I remember dogwood making hit pieces on both nuclear AND carbon capture.

    Solar is the new big oil.

  11. Charlene Simon says:

    Thank you for your considerable research and preparations for this Public Inquiry. So much appreciated!

  12. Donna says:

    As an Albertan I cannot convey my embarrassment of this governments agenda. I hope Alberta has learned something and will show that at the polls next election. Either that or I might have to come there and claim refugee status.

  13. Katherine Maas says:

    What an awesome response. Makes me proud to be associated with Dogwood.

  14. Ruth M Mueller says:

    I agree we can’t pit one province against another. In this fight we are allies we all breath the same air. I dont think protecting our natural resources is being anti Alberta. Keepup this fight.

  15. Shan G. says:

    Commissioner Steve Allan’s “so-called investigation” is nothing other than a diversion created by the current UCP government to vade off their bungling of the province’s economic and health care policies. No wonder everything is kept secret, the entire report may become a laughing stock if publshee!

  16. Mary Nokleby says:

    My husband and I are part of the Dogwood initiatives, having donated monthly for years. It amuses us to be part of a foreign conspiracy against Alberta…….as we live here and have grandkids who are busy now defending their mountains against the same ideologues who think they can bully another oil boom out of our back country………and accuse anyone who disagrees with their vision of the future as a foreign conspirator.

    Lazy research…..but I suspect it will bring more regular donors to Dogwood. You do remarkable, grassroots work….and we’re proud to stand with you.

  17. Michael says:

    Renewable energy is creating jobs twelve times faster than the rest of the economy.

    http://fortune.com/2017/01/27/solar-wind-renewable-jobs/

    Canadians will see a long list of benefits by transitioning to renewable energy. Stanford University researchers have already mapped out exactly what would be involved for Canada to transition to a totally-feasible-right-now 100% renewable energy economy and what it would cost, and it turns out that Canadians will see a long list of benefits by transitioning to renewable energy. Research indicates it will create 200,000 new jobs in the energy sector and the conversion of 500,000 fossil fuel-related jobs into clean energy jobs. Air pollution from burning fossil fuels would be eliminated, energy prices would stabilize, and the country would save more than $100 billion every year. Canada would also meet its international commitments to emissions. This matches findings and real world evidence that rather than economic benefits and climate action being an either/or decision, they tend to go hand in hand across the board.

    https://www.conservationcouncil.ca/stanford-group-charts-path-for-canadas-renewable-transition/

    Wherever climate deniers gather to ‘trigger the libs,’ nuclear shills also inevitably congregate. That’s because cheerleading for nuclear power is one of the most effective ways to prevent reducing greenhouse gas emissions that there is.

    https://sustainablesong.medium.com/how-promoting-nuclear-energy-is-the-opposite-of-climate-action-de315ddd8d01

  18. Terry Moore says:

    Thank you for all the work you do. The Allan Commission’s draft report is proof positive that the “anti-Alberta” conclusion was predetermined. Kenney will get the report he wants allowing him to use the Commission’s conclusions to fuel his wedge-issue based politics in the next provincial election.

    Efforts to decarbonize with the goal of preserving a liveable climate are will be vilified as bring against the interests of Albertans while increased climate-killing GHG emissions from expanding tar sands production promoted as being in the public interest.

    Kenney thinks this a winning political frame. I think is he underestimates Albertans’ ability to detect BS when they here it. It’s time to put people and the climate first and phase out the fossil industry as fast as possible. A rapid energy transition is essential to the survival of all life on the planet and no one needs to be left behind.

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