Muttart Foundation letter to UCP’s Witch Hunt Chief Steve Allan says inquiry is “polarizing, undemocratic and unfounded.” Privacy and legal experts question Kenney War Room’s FOIP exemption, raise privacy concerns

BC’s Drilling and Fracking Credits a $1.2 Billion Subsidy in Recent Years, Researcher Finds by Andrew MacLeod, 13 Nov 2019, The Tyee

How many $billions in credits in Alberta?

B.C. government says millions in subsidies necessary to prevent fracking industry from packing up natural gas deposits and leaving by Mary Gillis, Aug 15, 2019, SATIRE by The Beaverton

Responding to a report finding the B.C. provincial government gave $663 million in subsidies to natural gas producers last year, Premier John Horgan is adamant that these subsidies were necessary to keep the industry from taking their production facilities and the natural gas deposits they rely upon elsewhere.

“The only way for B.C. to stay competitive in the natural gas game is to give these companies everything they ask for and more,” Premier Horgan said, defending the two thirds of a billion dollars given last year and the billions more in tax breaks and subsidies already promised to the industry in the future.

“It’s not like we have anything the fossil fuel industry needs. They’re only going to stay here as long as we keep them deliriously happy.”

While some experts believe that the natural gas industry is in fact pinned down to certain locations because the deposits they exploit are not portable, both the current NDP government and the Liberals before them have been unwilling to test that theory by not giving the industry buckets of cash and special legal treatment to stay put.

“Hell, just last year LNG Canada threatened to pull up stakes and move its processing plant and seaside port to Saskatoon or Edmonton [roaring laughter!] if we didn’t exempt them from carbon tax increases, so of course we had to give in,” Horgan said. “I know, it’s terrible, given that methane is a greenhouse gas and the fracking industry is a massive contributor to global warming, but what else could we possibly do? They hold all the cards.”

“Look,” Horgan continued, “I’d love to live in a world where, as premier, I could simply say to the natural gas industry, hey, we’re not going to keep giving you massive subsidies on top of the billions you make selling the publicly owned natural resource which you desperately need and we control. But that’s just not the world we live in.”

In related news, the B.C. government has announced it’s now official provincial policy to not force mine owners to pay for the cleanup of any environmental disasters they cause, because they probably feel quite bad about what they’ve done and that’s punishment enough.

BNN Interviews Alberta Oil Patch Consultant Brent Nimeck on Lexin and AER’s Orphan Wells: “This problem is 30 years in the making. … I would call it a Ponzi Scheme…. This is an orchestrated fraud from multiple angles: Industry, CAPP and the Alberta Energy Regulator have enabled this to happen. … Through our independent analysis and we’ve confirmed this at multiple sources within the energy regulator, the liabilities are over $300 billion. That’s what’s on the hook for Alberta taxpayers right now – $300 billion.”

‘Hyperbolic’: Longtime Edmonton charity questions “anti-Albertan” inquiry by Bob Weber, The Canadian Press, Nov 15 2019, National Newswatch

An established Edmonton charity that has supported philanthropy in the community for more than 65 years says the provincial government’s inquiry into so-called anti-Alberta activities is polarizing, undemocratic and unfounded.

In a 174-page letter to inquiry commissioner Steve Allan, the Muttart Foundation says the Public Inquiry Into Funding of Anti-Alberta Energy Campaigns is creating a “climate of fear” by suggesting there is a price to be paid for disagreeing with the government.

“The (order creating the inquiry) construes criticism of the oil and gas industry — or, depending on one’s perspective, concern about the environment — as ‘anti-Alberta,'” the letter says.

“Surely, in a democracy as lively and as firmly entrenched as that of Alberta, it cannot be anti-Alberta or ‘unAlbertan’ to engage in serious debate about significant issues.

“Disagreeing with government or with those involved in the energy industry is not evidence of wrongdoing. It is simply what happens in a free and democratic society.”

… The inquiry was called earlier this year to fulfil a campaign promise by Premier Jason Kenney’s United Conservative. Kenney has repeatedly accused U.S. charities of bankrolling efforts to block Canadian energy in a concerted “campaign of lies and defamation.”

The letter acknowledges that any misinformation needs to be called out. [First, call out the endless lies AER, NEB, Kenney, Andrew Scheer and the rest of the anti-humanity/anti-environment crew spit regularly, as well as decades of lies and harmful polluting propaganda by CAPP (created by Ex Encana VP Gerard Protti) and oil and gas companies.]

But it adds that the inquiry’s terms of reference seem to deliberately single out criticism of the province’s energy industry and seem to suggest that it’s findings could affect provincial grant and support programs.

“To even imply that support of the energy industry or even agreement with government could become a criterion for determining whether an organization receives funding comes, we suggest, dangerously close to government direction of speech and thought.” [What? It’s always been that way in Alberta, even under Notley’s NDP!]

The letter goes on to examine the premise of the inquiry.

Using Canada Revenue Agency data, it found that foreign funds accounted for less than one per cent of the total revenue of $261.8 billion received by more than 84,000 Canadian charities in 2016, the most recent year for which statistics are available.

In Alberta, 284 charities received $88.5 million from foreign sources — less than three per cent of their revenue. The University of Calgary was the top recipient, raking in 42 per cent of all foreign funding in Alberta. [No wonder U of C welcomed being frac’d and synergized!]

The rest of the Top 10 were four other post-secondary institutions, three religious charities, an international development charity and an arts organization.

More religious charities received foreign funding than any other type. Environmental charities ranked last out of nine.

The raw data is included in the letter, which is posted on the foundation’s website.

Foundation director Bob Wyatt said that the public should be able to comment on any policy recommendations that come out of the inquiry.

“If there is to be a set of recommendations that are going to adversely affect a particular organization or the sector generally, there should be a public opportunity for those to be addressed before they’re submitted to cabinet.”

But turn down the rhetoric, he asks.

“There is a concern about Alberta’s economy. There is a concern about climate change.

“That dispute is not going to go away in the short term. We need to figure out ways to deal with both of those issues and to get rid of the polarization which currently exists.”

Charities receiving funding from outside Canada by The Muttart Foundation, Oct 21, 2019

The Foundation carried out research to identify the degree to which Canadian charities report receiving funding from outside Canada. Data is based on the annual returns (T3010s) filed by charities with the Canada Revenue Agency for fiscal years ending in 2016 (the latest data available on the Government of Canada Open Data website).

This table shows all Canadian charities that reported receiving funding from outside of Canada.

This table shows only those Alberta charities that reported funding from outside Canada.

By law, the Foundation is required to make available research it carries out or commissions.

Vivian Krause’s shoddy research exposed. Has Kenney bought a very large barrel of snake oil? by Markham Hislop, October 7, 2019,

Vivian Krause’s conspiracy narrative cannot withstand serious scrutiny

At the Saturday premiere of her so-called documentary on US funding of Canadian anti-pipeline activists, Over a Barrel, Vivian Krause was asked if her research was peer-reviewed. “No,” she replied. What she didn’t tell the audience was just how far below that academic standard her work actually is.

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney has inaccurately called Krause a journalist, presumably based on her op-eds being published in Postmedia newspapers, which hardly qualifies her as a journalist. The core of the journalist process is on-the-record interviews and verification of facts. She undertakes none of the former and little of the latter, essentially invalidating any claim to be a reporter.

If Krause isn’t a peer-reviewed researcher or a journalist, what is she?

At the heart of Alberta’s “foreign-funded activist” narrative is inferior research

The quality of Krause’s research is an issue because the Jason Kenney government has committed millions of taxpayer dollars to an energy war room and a public inquiry into anti-Alberta activism based solely on her decade or so of combing IRS databases for evidence of payments from American foundations to Canadian environmental non-government organizations (ENGOs). Furthermore, the Alberta-based oil and gas industry has seized upon her conspiracy narrative as evidence that Canadian pipeline projects are being unfairly opposed, causing catastrophic economic effects for the provincial economy.

Energy Minister Sonya Savage was previously a pipeline lobbyist for Enbridge.

“Thanks in a large part to the research of Vivian Krause, we know that the foreign-funded ‘Tar Sands’ campaign has links to bills C-69 and C-48, which are detrimental to the interests of Alberta’s responsible energy sector,” Alberta energy minister Sonya Savage said in a June release about the energy war room. “Our Energy War Room will be a platform to amplify what has been uncovered by research from Ms. Krause, and other industry stakeholders who have been on the front lines of the effort to combat the misinformation about Alberta’s energy.”

There is, in fact, no evidence the Kenney government looked to any sources other than Krause before declaring, inaccurately, that tens of thousands of jobs were destroyed by activists like Tzeporah Berman.

There is also no evidence that the government vetted or verified Krause’s work before committing $30 million for the war room and $2.5 million for the inquiry, an extraordinary circumstance for a government committed to cutting education and social services funding in pursuit of a balanced budget. In fact, Kenney and the United Conservative Party committed to Krause’s narrative well over a year ago, long before the April election.

How Krause arrived at her controversial conclusions matters

Peer review is just what it sounds like: evaluation of scientific, academic, or professional research by others working in the same field. This is the gold standard for research and it’s applied at reputable journals and publishers by respected experts in their field.

Krause has penned several blatantly partisan anti-Tar Sands Campaign op-eds promoting the United Conservative Party, exposing one of the likely motivations for her research.

Instead of peer-reviewed publications, Krause published her work on her blog and in op-eds in the conservative National Post and other Postmedia newspapers, which rarely ask writers to verify the information backing up their opinions. She also testified before various Senate committees, where she espoused some of her most outlandish theories and made allegations that were lapped up by senators. Her research was also never questioned by a fawning media, including TV host Wendy Mesley and the CBC.

The source of almost all her information appears to be online IRS databases that access reports and some correspondence the American government requires tax-exempt organizations like charities to file annually. This is public information. Give Krause her due, assembling the information took plenty of work, which is one of the reasons why journalists like me were loath to follow in her footsteps. Who has the time and resources these days to verify that much information?

For almost a decade, Krause had the field to herself, free from scrutiny.

Then, on May 14, Energi Media published my deep dive based on interviews (recorded for accuracy) with 15 ENGOs that were part of the Tar Sands Campaign and three experts on social movement organizations, review of select ENGO publicly available financial statements, and foreign funding data provided by several of the larger ENGOs, like Green Peace Canada. Think of my investigative report as being downstream of Krause’s data, the ENGOS who received the money.

On October 3, the National Observer published Sandy Garossino’s analysis about how the US foundations and charities actually transferred funds to those ENGOs. Think of this report as being upstream of Krause’s data, the American charities who provided the money.

In the middle is Krause with IRS data that has limited value without context from the upstream and downstream. Without knowing how American foundations provided funds and how Canadians ENGOs spent them, Krause’s conclusions cannot be take seriously.

Krause simply doesn’t understand how foundations work

A credible researcher or journalist would have followed up with the US foundations to verify how and why they granted money to the 50 to 100 Canadian ENGOs in the Tar Sands Campaign. Krause does not appear to have done that, aside from referencing publicly available information. To be fair, the foundations are not forthcoming with that information. They did not respond to Energi Media’s interview requests and the occasional statements they have provided to other Canadian media have been terse and short on detail.

This forced Krause to seize upon scraps of evidence wherever she could find them, in application forms or covering letters, for instance, or Tar Sands Campaign Powerpoint presentations that she found on the Internet. Without background and context, however, Krause was free to arrive at her own fanciful interpretation of the documents.

For instance, she claimed that the US foundations started and quarterbacked the Tar Sands Campaign.

This argument is at the core of her conspiracy narrative, which she spices up by occasionally hinting that the motive was landlocking Alberta oil, leading in turn to steep price discounts that benefited American refiners and consumers. Berman and the ENGOs, however, told a very different story about the campaign’s origins that includes two years of meetings between Canadian First Nations and indigenous communities, scientists, and environmental groups before the launch of the informal coalition in 2008. Not only were Canadians the active agents of the campaign, according to Energi Media sources, but Canadian donors also provided 85 per cent to 95 per cent of the funding.

This is why Garossino’s report is so important. How the American foundations operate, what they can and cannot (or will not) do, is central to Krause’s narrative. Garossino is a lawyer and former Crown prosecutor in British Columbia, so getting the legal and administrative aspects right is part of her training and experience. In addition, she spent nine months combing Candid, “America’s most comprehensive foundation and charitable monitoring site,” tracking the flow of funds from US charities to Canadian ENGOs.

As an example of Garossino’s findings, consider her analysis of the role played in the Tar Sands Campaign by the Tides Foundation, the arch-villain of Krause’s narrative. “According to tax documents filed with the IRS, Tides Foundation funded the Tsleil-Wauteuth First Nation specifically ‘to stop and oppose the Kinder Morgan pipeline and tanker project,’” Krause wrote in the Financial Post earlier this year.

Garossino says the Tides Foundation doesn’t work that way. Charities like the Rockefellers Foundation disperse funds through “donor-advised funds,” which essentially function as banks for a variety of charities, providing cost-effective administrative and other services to the grantors.

“DAFs are employed where funding is pooled from multiple foundations or sources, for time-limited initiatives, or to avoid the prohibitive cost of setting up a standalone charity,” she writes. “If your employer pays you out of their RBC account, does that make you RBC-funded? That’s basically the extent of Tides relationship to the Tar Sands Campaign.”

Many other examples from Garossino’s report demonstrate that the foundation funding system does not work as Krause believes. If the former nutritionist and farm salmon PR manager had consulted or interviewed experts in order to understand this complex legal and administrative framework, she might have avoided numerous errors.

Krause wrong about the Canadian ENGOs, too

The important point here is that Krause appears not to have verified her interpretations of the US funding grants with the actual recipients. Here is a response from Tides Canada – who at Energi Media’s request combed through emails going back to 2014 – about their contacts with Krause.

“Although in one email I found she asked questions about where the funding went, for the overwhelming majority, she would simply list a whole bunch of info she had collected, and then ask for us to reply and confirm it was correct,” communications manager Alison Henning wrote in a May 3 email.

Krause’s intractable problem with measuring effect of Tar Sands Campaign

Krause’s conspiracy narrative has a fatal flaw: she cannot prove that US foundation funding of the Tar Sands Campaign influenced Canadian pipeline delays and cancellations. Even drawing a straight line from anti-pipeline activism to government, regulator, or project proponent actions is impossible. Pipelines are massive multi-year infrastructure projects that involve innumerable actors from communities in various provinces to the federal government in Ottawa.

Krause avoids her critics

Krause refused to be interviewed for my deep dive. She did agree to answer written questions, but did not follow through with her commitment. Since the deep dive was published, she has ignored many requests to explain and defend her work and conclusions.

That is not the behaviour of a credible researcher. Even if she believes Energi Media is biased in its reporting of her work – I have consistently criticized Krause since 2016 – she has plenty of venues in which to refute me.

The pattern has become clear: Krause likes to ask “fair questions,” as she calls them, but she is not willing to answer fair but uncomfortable questions from journalists. Credible researchers defend their work, they don’t hide from critics.

Vivian Krause makes numerous mistakes about how American foundations work and the role they played in the Tar Sands Campaign, has not verified with Canadian ENGOs that the US funding was spent as she alleges, and cannot demonstrate that the funding had any of the impacts on Canadian pipeline projects that she claims.

Her conspiracy narrative is disproved and discredited, and Premier Jason Kenney appears to have bought a very large barrel of snake oil.

Privacy and legal experts question war room’s FOIP exemption, raise privacy concerns by Kevin Maimann with files from Nadine Yousif and Kieran Leavitt, Oct 15, 2019, Star Edmonton

Incorporating its “war room” may have complicated the government’s efforts to collect and safeguard information.

Last week, the province said the Canadian Energy Centre (CEC) — previously known as the Energy War Room — is a private corporation and therefore its internal operations will not be subject to Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy (FOIP) requests, but will instead fall under the Personal Information Protection Act (PIPA).

But some experts are questioning the validity of the centre’s FOIP exemption, as well as the logistics of complying with PIPA.

PIPA states an organization cannot collect, use or disclose personal information about an individual without that person’s consent. If a person requests information collected on themselves, the corporation has to respond within 45 days.

“If the war room is looking into me personally … then I have a legal right to request, from the private sector organization: What information do you have about me? What are you doing with it? What is the purpose for its collection?” said Sharon Polsky, president of the Privacy and Access Council of Canada. “I’m supposed to be given the opportunity to consent to its collection, as well.”

The energy centre has been mandated with combating what Alberta’s United Conservative government sees as misinformation about the oil and gas industry.

The government is promoting the controversial theory that a foreign-funded campaign of misinformation is at work in Canada, specifically to landlock Alberta oil — something critics call a conspiracy theory.

While information travelling between the centre and the government will still be subject to freedom of information requests, according to Premier Jason Kenney’s press secretary Christine Myatt, the internal operations of the corporation will not be.

Myatt said in an email Tuesday that the centre “will, of course, develop processes and procedures to ensure that it complies with PIPA rules.”

But Polsky said the centre’s entire operation might actually fall under FOIP, despite its declaration as a private corporation. She said the centre appears to be a “hybrid,” like the Alberta Treasury Branches, and said it may have to comply with both FOIP and PIPA.

Derek Anderson, a criminal defence and human rights lawyer in Edmonton, said how much of the centre’s work will be exempt from FOIP is an open question until it is clear how the organization is constituted and who is liable for its decisions.

“There’s a lot of unknowns. There’s a lot of unknown unknowns,” Anderson said. [FOIP the war room anyways, as often as possible!]

Even within the government, there has been some confusion on the corporation’s level of separation from the province. [If taxpayers are paying for it, there’s not much separation.]

At a press conference last Wednesday, Energy Minister Sonya Savage initially told reporters that the body would be open to FOIP requests. But the next day, Myatt issued a statement to reporters saying the minister “was not sufficiently clear regarding FOIP legislation’s applicability to the CEC.” [Too funny! Don’t believe a word coming out of UCP politicos/staff/propagandists/etc]

The CEC’s budget is set by the province at $30 million and will be managed by former Calgary Herald journalist Tom Olsen.

Lisa Young, a political science professor at the University of Calgary, said she has concerns with the centre’s efforts to keep some information from the public.

Young also criticized the centre’s choice of a leader [Did the UCPs “pick” a war room “leader,” or did they reward a failed member of the flock w a cushy, big money, big ego job, as usual?] with a background in journalism rather than science, saying it suggests the focus will be on developing public relations expertise [Of course propaganda/PR is what the focus is! And trying to intimidate concerned citizens silent (big fail already)] — not engaging in scientific conversation.

“There’s a level of secrecy here that I think is worrisome, and I wonder if a media organization will challenge it in court,” Young said.

Another complication might lie in the government’s $2.5-million public inquiry, which was established to collect information on people perceived to be working against the oil and gas industry in Alberta.

The inquiry has an email address, dubbed a “snitch line” by some critics, where Albertans are encouraged to submit information.

Myatt said in an email Tuesday that “while the inquiry and CEC are separate, distinct entities, the inquiry’s findings may eventually inform the CEC’s work.” [FOIP them anyways.]

Anderson said the inquiry would not be allowed to share any personal information with a private corporation, however, and vice versa.

Anderson said governments are not allowed to divulge information collected via tax filings to third-party private interests, for example, without explicit personal consent. If they were to do so, they would face “significant consequences.”

[Pffffft! Under Caveman Canada’s Rule of Law? The consequence of the Alberta government, with its endless expensive big oil prostitutes (politicians, no matter what polka dot), breaking the law, might be an investigation that punishes a few underlings but never investigates or touches the prime pimps, especially never #1 Pimp like Kenney, Scheer, Harper, Trump]

“I don’t think it’s any more appropriate for the government to take information that it’s in possession of and pass it along to a corporation that it nominally wishes to be received as — and acted upon as though it were — a truly independent corporation,” Anderson said.

“You can’t have it both ways, in my mind.

You can’t be both a Crown corporation and subject to the rules and regulations, duty of fairness, admin law requirements of a Crown corporation, but then also try and (adhere) to all the protections and limitations of a truly private corporation.” [Sure you can! Gov’ts often do, notably where big oil controls all, including courts.]

Anderson said regardless of legality, the challenges of obtaining information from a Crown corporation will be enough of a hurdle to stop most people, who have limited resources and time, from digging too far.

Polsky suspects it could take a great deal of time and resources to get anything from a FOIP request to the Canadian Energy Centre. [FOIP the war room and it’s offspring, Steve Allan’s witch ‘n snitchin’ inquiry, anyways. You’ll be amazed at the scary details you can uncover via FOIPing, especially when the agencies tell you it can’t be done.]

“The government’s already made it abundantly clear that their intention is to safeguard the corporation’s dealings,” Polsky said. “So I would be very surprised if a FOIP to any unit of the government of Alberta would be met with anything other than a delay, a claim for exemption, stonewalling.” [Standard in Alberta, has always been so: Abuse citizenry, delay, over-charge, withhold records the govt is not allowed to withhold, etc etc etc even when FOIPing for one’s own health information. It’s Big Oil’s Dirty Bullying Way to keep secrets and control the people and messages, so as to increase profits for a few and escape accountability for harming many. FOIP anyways!]

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