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.



[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