Is Kenney’s “War” Mindset Really in the Public Interest?

Will Kenney’s War Room Mindset Get at or Hide the Truth? 

A Progressive Republican Senator (yes there used to be such a thing) from California (go figure) named Hiram Johnson, in 1918 at the time of World War I, is to have famously said “The first casualty when war comes is truth.  As an ironic aside, he died on August 6, 1945, the day the United States dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima.

The War Room Mindset

Mr. Kenney government likes war metaphors.  He is spending $30million of Alberta’s tax dollars to fund a war room to go after his ënemies.  We are waiting for more details on the war room mandate, the identity of the contractor warriors, their KPIs and remuneration and the “targets” they will pursue and why.   

There must be accountability, transparency and high levels of openness considering all aspects of this War Room activities.  The potential for abuses of privacy, free speech rights and fact-hiding SLAPP actions are enormous. What will stop this from happening without vigilant, comprehensive and continuous citizen oversight and monitoring?

The Proxy War  

I mention this because the Kenney UCP government has decided it wants to go to ”war” against environmental groups and foreign funds used  to challenge oil sands development. This is a proxy war because the Kenney government will not be directly involved in the “hostilities.”  

Instead the have established a Public Inquiry mandated and funded to delve into Anti-Alberta energy industry defamation activities by allegedly “…a well-funded foreign campaign…” is one example.  

There is a danger that the Inquiry Commissioner will not be independent to follow the evidence wherever it leads but will become a mercenary hired to deliver on the preconceived notions of Mr. Kenney.  That is not appropriate by any reasonable test of the “public interest.”  

Is that independence of the Commissioner assured by the stated purpose of the Anti-Alberta Public Inquiry, namely the: 

“expedient and ïn the public interest of Albertans and Canadians to understand the facts about foreign funding of anti-Alberta energy campaigns, and to ensure Alberta’s oil and gas industry is not hindered in its reasonable opportunity to compete in international oil and gas markets by the dissemination of misleading or false information.” 

Is the Anti-Alberta Public Inquiry Really for the Public Interest? 

Albertans are the owners of these oil and gas energy resources, not the energy ïndustry corporations.  They are our tenants in various mines and mineral leases. In the case of the oil sands, the developers and operators are also our joint venturers.  That is because all Albertans share the project risks because our royalty rents tied to corporate net profits and rates vary with the price of oil.  

As a citizen of Alberta, and owner of the natural resources I am concerned about the causes of energy project delays and investor disenchantment with Alberta’s energy industry. So I want to know about all the impediments to efficient, effective, responsible and sustainable energy resource development and commercial exploitation?  After all these are non-renewable resources and alternatives for fossil fuels are gaining advantages.

The Public Inquiries Act of Alberta enables the Alberta Cabinet to set up a Commissioner with very significant powers to compel testimony under oath,but only over those who are in Alberta.  So in reality all those “foreign” entities, which includes those organizations located in other Provinces, are really outside the enforcement jurisdiction of the Public Inquiry.

Here is an excerpt from the Public Inquiries Act that empowers the Alberta Cabinet to appoint a Commission of Inquiry. 

Appointment of Commissioner

When the Lieutenant Governor in Council considers it expedient and in the public interest to cause an inquiry to be made into and concerning a matter within the jurisdiction of the Legislature and 

(a) connected with the good government of Alberta or the conduct of the public business of Alberta, or 

(b) that the Lieutenant Governor in Council declares by commission to be a matter of public concern, the Lieutenant Governor in Council may by commission appoint one or more commissioners to make the inquiry and to report on it. 

What strikes me is the language outlining the criteria to establish a Public Inquiry. The Cabinet (really Mr. Kenney) can do so if they “…considers it expedient and in the public interest…”

As Owners of the resources the public interest in our energy industry is best served when it’s about our industry being responsible, sustainable, accountable and profitable.  That must be a central part of any review of the state of Alberta’s energy industry. 

As for deeming the Public Inquiry to be ëxpedient, it is telling when one considers the definition of expedient.  It is very apropos to Kenney’s decision to pursue a Public Inquiry.:

ex·pe·di·ent

/ikˈspēdēənt/

Adjective

(of an action) convenient and practical, although possibly improper or immoral. (Emphasis added).
synonyms:convenient, advantageous, in one’s own interests, to one’s own advantage, useful, of use, of service, beneficial, of benefit, profitable, gainful, effective, helpful; More

Noun

a means of attaining an end, especially one that is convenient but considered improper or immoral.
“the current policy is a political expedient”
synonyms:measure, means, method, stratagem, scheme, plan, course of action, solution, move, tactic, maneuver, recourse, resource, device, tool, contrivance, ploy, plot, machination, trick, ruse, artifice, invention;

Expediency is hardly a laudable positive strategic value to validate support this Public Inquiry.  Can we trust the politically motivated Public Inquiry and War Room to get at the Truth, the Whole Truth and Nothing But the Truth? 

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