What is the legal foundation and 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.

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 through its Terms of Reference.  This Public Inquiry is constructed to enable in-depth research of complex matters and to allow important and timely public education on matters of public concern.

When will the public inquiry start?

Work began on the Inquiry when it was approved by Order in Council 125/2019 on July 4, 2019. As currently contemplated in the Terms of Reference, the Inquiry has two phases:

  • Phase 1, an investigative and research phase, is underway. In Phase 1, the Commissioner and his team are researching and reviewing various reports and literature related to the issues, and interviewing individuals and organizations with potentially relevant information.
    • An interim report addressing progress and next steps will be submitted to the Minister of Energy by January 31, 2020.
  • Phase 2 is based on the information gathered during Phase 1, and will engage various parties who have an interest in contributing to the matters before the Inquiry.

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 forwarded 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.

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.

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.  

What is the Inquiry's relationship to the Province of Alberta's Canadian Energy Centre?

The Inquiry is completely separate and independent from the Canadian Energy Centre.  The Inquiry Commisoner's Mandate is distinct and governed by the Terms of Reference and the Public Inquires Act.

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.

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.

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 at this time.

The website will be updated when the Commissioner has information to share with the public.

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 indepedent 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 was focused on corporate restructuring 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.

Are the Terms of Reference of the Inquiry public?

Yes. They can be found within the Order in Council 125/2019.  They have since been amended to the current Terms of Reference.

What is the Commissioner's response to Ecojustice's court application for a judicial review and the injunction application?

It is not appropriate for the Commissioner to comment on matters that are the subject of ongoing proceedings in the courts.  The matter will be addressed before the Alberta Court of Queen's Bench, where the Application was filed.

What is the engagement process of the Alberta Inquiry? What is its purpose?

This process provides a framework for 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.

How will the engagement proceed?

  • The process for engagement of the Inquiry is outlined in the Rules for Procedure and Practice posted on this website.
  • The Inquiry’s Rules for Procedure and Practice strike a balance between the need for an efficient and cost-effective Inquiry and the importance of ensuring parties are treated fairly and are given a reasonable opportunity to comment and respond to matters that may affect their interests.

How will the Commissioner engage participants?

  • This Inquiry engagement involves two streams:
    • Participants for Commentary, who 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.
    • Participant for Response, who are persons 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, who will be given notice and an opportunity to respond to such findings before finalization of the final report.
  • Parties may, and may be invited to, apply for standing as a Participant for Commentary. The requirements to qualify as a Participant for Commentary are outlined in the Rules for Procedure and Practice posted on this website. An application form to apply for standing as a Participant for Commentary is posted on this website.

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 and be more cost intensive, and would therefore be less efficient.
  • The Inquiry has to date provided an opportunity for a general level of 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.

Has the Inquiry found foreign funds directed to stop Alberta oil and gas development?

  • The Inquiry to date has been primarily focused on investigation and research, mostly from public sources, of foreign funding.
  • The Inquiry is not in a position to make any definitive findings or issue recommendations until it has completed the necessary investigation and research and permitted parties who may be impacted by potential findings a fair and reasonable opportunity to respond to any 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.

Why can’t you say what you have found?

  • The Commissioner recognizes that the findings in the final report may impact the reputation of an entity and that any entity who may be impacted by such a finding must be given a reasonable opportunity to respond prior to a finding being made.
  • Providing such an opportunity is important not only to ensure fairness to the entity who may be subject of a finding, but to ensure that the Commissioner has access to all relevant information prior to making a finding.

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.
  • Investigative efforts are expected to continue, but a critical 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 factual finding in the final report are provided an opportunity to respond to information collected.
  • Source information relied upon by the Inquiry in making any findings or recommendations will be referred to in the Inquiry’s final report.

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.

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 subject to those findings, so that such persons must have a fair opportunity to respond prior to such findings being made.
  • The Commissioner is taking 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, and will only do so if circumstances develop in such a way as to necessitate it.

Recent 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 Alberta oil and gas development.

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.

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