Ecojustice's injunction to halt Alberta inquiry dismissed in court

An injunction that would have paused the provincial government’s inquiry into alleged foreign-funded campaigns against Alberta’s energy industry was dismissed in the Court of Queen’s Bench on Thursday. 

Court asked both parties to come up with new date for legal challenge hearing postponed due to pandemic

Devon Page, the executive director of Ecojustice, an environmental law charity speaks during a news conference in Vancouver, B.C., in this 2012 file photo. (Darryl Dyck/Canadian Press)

An injunction that would have paused the provincial government's inquiry into alleged foreign-funded campaigns against Alberta's energy industry was dismissed in the Court of Queen's Bench on Thursday. 

Justice Karen M. Horner said she agreed with the province and the commissioner that there is no evidence that the release of information from the inquiry will negatively impact the reputation of Ecojustice, an environmental law charity that filed for the injunction. 

Ecojustice had filed the injunction because they said inquiry commissioner Steve Allan had not put in place a defined process in which organizations could respond to the inquiry, something the organization argued could result in "irreparable reputational harm."

However, in September the inquiry posted rules for gathering information from different parties. 

The United Conservative Party government launched the inquiry in July 2019. Then-justice minister Doug Schweitzer appointed Allan, a Calgary insolvency accountant, as the inquiry's commissioner. 

In November 2019, Ecojustice filed a legal challenge against the controversial inquiry alleging it was created for "partisan political purposes" outside the authority of the Public Inquiries Act and had been tainted by bias from the outset.

The court hearing for the challenge was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Ecojustice executive director Devon Page said he was disappointed to learn of the judicial response to the injunction, however, because of the application, the court has now asked the two parties to consider a second hearing date. 

"If we get a main hearing on this for the release of the report, we are in exactly the place we want to be, so at the end of the day it may not mean much," Page said. 

He said they are considering a court date either in December or February. 

On several occasions, the province amended the scope and scale of the inquiry and has granted extensions for the submission of its final report. Originally the report was supposed to be filed in July 2020, but now it is due on Jan. 31 and the province is legally obligated to release it 90 days after submission.

Page said there is a chance for the province to release the report early.

If that happens it would be "consistent with what the intent has been from the outset, to not actually conduct a fair process, conduct something that is pre-conceived and conclude the witch hunt, again for the purpose of wanting to go after people who criticize the Alberta oil and gas," he said.

CBC reached out to the province for comment but did not hear back.