Edmonton

No victims, no foul: Alberta premier files defence in Allan report defamation suit

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney has filed his defence in a defamation lawsuit brought against him over his remarks on the release of the Inquiry into supposed misinformation about the province's energy industry.

Statement says Kenney's remarks were fair comment and plaintiffs unable to prove damages

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney's statement of defence says none of the groups that brought the lawsuit can be identified from his remarks and even if they could be, his were fair comment. (Kyle Bakx/CBC)

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney has filed his defence in a defamation lawsuit brought against him over his remarks on the release of the inquiry into supposed misinformation about the province's oil and gas industry.

Kenney's statement says he never accused any particular organization of spreading misinformation about Alberta oil and gas.

The premier reiterated his assertion that environmental groups said false things about the industry while speaking at an unrelated news conference in Canmore on Friday.

"I find it fascinating that they were willing to dump millions of dollars into political and legal efforts to undermine Canadian energy exports and they're now shocked that somebody's actually shining a spotlight on those efforts," Kenney said. "So, obviously, we're not going to apologize. They should apologize. They should apologize for allowing the world's worst regimes to have a larger share of global energy markets."

Six environmental organizations filed a lawsuit against Kenney last month. They allege the premier twisted inquiry commissioner Steve Allan's findings into whether the groups were using foreign funding to try and landlock Alberta oil by spreading misinformation.

Allan found no wrongdoing or misleading information, but Kenney is accused of saying otherwise on both social media and government websites. The statement of defence says Kenney is not responsible for those websites.

The government's web page says Allan's report "confirms the existence of well-funded, decade-long campaigns based on misinformation that have impacted the lives and livelihoods of Albertans." 

Kenney's statement of defence says none of the groups that brought the lawsuit can be identified from his remarks, or on the government's website about the inquiry.

Even if they could be, the statement says Kenney's remarks were fair comment and adds the plaintiffs are unable to show they suffered any damages from them. The statement also said Kenney's social media posts about the findings were made in the public interest.

Kenney and the government deny the comments were made in bad faith or with malice.

Kenney's defence disingenuous, plaintiff's lawyer says

The organizations who launched the legal challenge, and who are all named as participants in anti-Alberta energy campaigns in Allan's report, are Environmental Defence Canada, Dogwood Initiative, Stand.Earth, West Coast Environmental Law Association, West Coast Environmental Law Research Foundation and Western Canada Wilderness Committee.

Their lawyer, Paul Champ, said Friday that the premier's argument is disingenuous.

"If he wasn't referring to them, the question would be, who is he referring to?" Champ said.

The premier did not say which organizations his comments related to when asked on Friday.

Champ said his clients' work depends on their credibility.

He said the premier's approach of attacking his political enemies is damaging democratic discourse.

Champ said the organizations have not yet identified whether the Allan inquiry or government's framing of its conclusions led to dips in donations.

"This matter could have been resolved earlier if Mr. Kenney had just apologized and acknowledged he'd made a mistake – was using a bit too much hyperbole, perhaps. Was overstating things," Champ said.

He said he expects the case to proceed to trial and will be calling on the premier to answer questions. Champ also hopes that communications between the premier's office and Allan inquiry become public as the parties exchange documents.

On Friday, Kenney also pointed a finger at environmentalists' anti-Alberta oil campaigns as partly responsible for a global dependence on Russian oil and gas products.

He said their campaigns prevented pipelines from being constructed, "which is one of the reasons why the world is in this precarious situation of being so dependent on Vladimir Putin's energy exports," Kenney said, referring to the Russian president.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Janet French

Provincial affairs reporter

Janet French covers the Alberta Legislature for CBC Edmonton. She previously spent 15 years working at newspapers, including the Edmonton Journal and Saskatoon StarPhoenix. You can reach her at janet.french@cbc.ca.

With files from Terri Trembath and the Canadian Press

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