Thursday , 2 December 2021

Public inquiry confirms foreign funding hurt Alberta’s energy development

The public inquiry into anti-Alberta energy campaigns confirms that hundreds of millions of foreign dollars were used to block our province’s oil and gas development, affecting the lives and livelihoods of Albertans.

As the owners of the province’s natural resources, Albertans deserve to know the source of the funding being used by the environmental groups and how it was mobilized to harm the oil and gas sector. The inquiry and its final report shines a light on the sophisticated, coordinated and well-financed campaigns – such as the “Tar Sands Campaign.” It also details how these campaigns operate like a business to attract foreign funding in pursuit of their agendas. The goal of these groups was to landlock Alberta’s oil and gas sector, with a specific focus on stopping all oil sands development.

“I thank commissioner Steve Allan for the due diligence and excellent work that went into his comprehensive report,” Sonya Savage, Minister of Energy said in a news release. “Albertans should be outraged at the foreign-funded campaigns that targeted our oil and gas sector in an attempt to block development. Alberta’s natural resources belong to Albertans, and decisions about their development should be made by Albertans.”

Between 2003 and 2019, total foreign funding of Canadian-based environmental initiatives was $1.28 billion, a figure the commissioner estimates is likely significantly understated. He also found that proponents for these campaigns celebrated cancelled and vetoed projects and have taken credit for more than 1,000 divestments made by finance and insurance companies representing $8 trillion of investments. This includes seven campaigns specifically targeting divestment in the oil sands, including the SumOfUs campaign that targeted the Trans Mountain Pipeline, Keystone XL and the Teck Frontier Mine.

Another main finding was that these environmental groups operate with limited transparency and accountability compared with regulated public companies. While industry is highly regulated, closely monitored and must be open and transparent with respect to their financial reporting requirements, many of the same requirements do not exist for not-for-profits or charities.

“We need to take the report’s findings, learn from the tactics employed and ensure that foreign funding does not target the development of the emerging energy resources, including hydrogen, carbon capture, utilization and storage, critical and rare earth minerals, small modular reactors and LNG, which are needed to reduce emissions and diversify Alberta’s economy,” Minister Savage said. “They need to be able to grow and compete in a world that is moving towards lowering carbon emissions. These campaigns will likely set their sights on these emerging areas in the energy sector. It is money looking for a cause. This government will not allow this critical sector of our economy and jobs to be influenced by foreign-funded campaigns.”

Tim McMillan, is the president and CEO, of the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP).

“The public inquiry into anti-Alberta energy campaigns brings to light the highly coordinated, well-funded and international nature of these campaigns which have played a part in cancelling billions of dollars in resource projects and thousands of jobs for Albertans,” McMillan said. “For years, the energy conversation has been driven by activist organizations who have influenced energy policies that are today contributing to rising energy costs for Canadians, as well as energy shortages for our trading partners around the world. The Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers hopes the findings of the report will help bring greater transparency and a more positive approach to the Canadian conversation about our oil and natural gas industry and the role it can play to help meet growing global demand.”

The government accepts the commissioner’s recommendations and continues to work on a number of wide-ranging initiatives that align with the commissioner’s recommendations.

The government has established an Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) Secretariat to help the province align with environmental concerns from financial markets. In addition to the commissioner’s recommendations, the introduction of a bill during the fall legislative session by the Minister of Justice and Solicitor General would ban foreign money by allowing only Albertans to make contributions to election advertising (advertising during an election period) and only Canadians to contribute to political advertising (advertising at all other times).

The government says it will continue to seek other opportunities to further its commitment to protecting the best interests of Albertans and support the province’s energy sector.

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About Arthur C. Green

Arthur C. Green is from Whitbourne Newfoundland and graduated from the CNA Journalism Program. Arthur also studied Business Marketing and Political Science at Memorial University in Essex England and St. John's Newfoundland. Green has worked for such organizations as CBC, CBC Radio, NTV, Saltwire, Great West Media, CKLB Radio, Vista Radio, and Postmedia. He also loves Jiggs Dinner!