“I WAS NOT A COMMUNIST ANTI-WAR DUPE IN THE 1960s. Just the way I am not a Big Oil dupe today,” says Don Charles. “But that’s not what Jason Kenney wants us all to believe.”
Kenney wants us all to believe environmental activists like Don are all part of what Kenney calls a vast conspiracy of “foreign funded defamation” of the Alberta fossil fuel industry. The Alberta premier will spend $2.5 million of taxpayer’s money to try and prove it.
“This is just one more politician’s trick to divert attention from the fact our house is burning down,” says Don. “My environmental activism has just one motivation: to save the planet from Big Oil—all Big Oil, in the USA, in Alberta, everywhere. There are no good guys or bad guys here. They’re all bad.”
A ‘tinfoil-hat conspiracy theory’
Jason Kenney has a whole different take. He is a true believer: for him the benefits of the oil industry to Alberta and Canada are clear, obvious and undeniable. The fact many millions vehemently disagree convinces him of just one thing: a sinister and willing conspiracy among environment activists to keep Alberta oil “landlocked” and off the international market.
The conspiracy Kenney sees is “a well-funded political propaganda campaign to defame our energy industry and to land-lock our resources” led by the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, the Tides Foundation and other U.S. charitable entities, who eagerly funnel money to many Canadian environmental groups opposed to Alberta oil development and transport.
The ins and outs of this so-called conspiracy are so fantastic one of its key promoters freely admits: “If I was just to tell you who paid whom and how much, it’s hard to believe. It comes off like a tinfoil-hat conspiracy theory.”
But this doesn’t stop the conspiracy peddlers who claim Alberta oil is the target of a “fake grassroots” campaign. The conspiracy spinners maintain Canadian environmental activists have played right into the business interests of U.S. billionaires by becoming their “useful idiots.”
An election ploy
This conspiracy theory proved useful to the United Conservative Party’s recent election campaign. It may also be a good story to spin for Andrew Scheer and the Conservative Party of Canada in the federal election this fall.
Now stuck with the inquiry the question is will the “inquiry” be an honest examination of the way things really are, or a guided tour towards a foregone conclusion. Early signs point to support for a foregone conclusion.
Steve Allen, chair of Calgary Economic Development, will head the inquiry. Giving such a responsibility to a man who headed an office set up to sell corporate investors on the benefits of opening branch offices in Calgary suggests a certain business bias from the get go. Giving him subpoena power under the province’s Public Inquiries Act is an even greater worry.
It’s also not a good sign that Kenney repeatedly relied on nothing more than commentaries by some random Vancouver blogger to back up his dubious claim that $75 million has been expended on this conspiracy.
NDP Economic Development Critic Deron Bilous described the inquiry as a “glorified Google search.”
Environmental activist Tzeporah Berman came closer to the troubling heart of the issue when she tweeted that “what is disturbing about this Alberta Inquiry is government using power of the state to harass citizens who disagree with their agenda to expand the oil and gas industry despite the growing threat of climate change. This Inquiry is about civil liberties.”
Only loyal Albertans need apply
In an ominous reference to the Un-American Activities Committee 1950s hunt for “disloyal” citizens in the USA, energy journalist Markham Hislop called the inquiry the “Un-Alberta Activities Committee” and described its mandate as conducting a “witch hunt.”
Indeed, Premier Kenney described the tactics of this supposed “disinformation and defamation” campaign as “litigation, public protests and political lobbying,”—all activities that are protected by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
Kenney may well plan to use the findings of this inquiry as the basis of a legal effort to harass and sue environmental activists, along with any and all critics of the fossil fuel industry. The outcome in the courts is not only likely to be disappointing but also very costly for Alberta taxpayers, as the conservatives persist in a cockeyed belief that a desire to keep the world green is not, on its own, enough to convince Canadians to take their own action against the depredations of Big Oil.
The inquiry is supposed to report on July 2, 2020.
This article was originally published by The Canadian Labour Institute.
Reprinted with permission for CALM Members use.