Whither the Disclaimer? Too funny! Witch hunter Steve Allen’s feelings bruise easily, “The Journalists have also failed to treat me fairly” … Poor Compton Petro Babe Allen ought not to hunt witches if he can’t take the heat. How many law violations did Allan’s bogus inquiry commit?

2020: Too funny! Alberta’s UCP witch hunt changing rules midplay, again. Why? Can’t find any witches or their brooms?

2020: UCP’s witch hunt smells like a Jason Kenney-Vivian Krause flop: “If [Kenney] was serious about uncovering harm to Alberta he would set his sights on CAPP and the rest of the oil cabal.”

Denton’s Law firm wanting more easy money? UCP Kenney’s Witch Hunt given another million dollars, making it look like just another AIMCo money laundering scheme. To pay Harper for his time puppeting Kenney? (Harper works at Denton’s and Witch Hunt boss Steve Allen’s son is partner there. Creepy.)

2020 06 20: Wording tweaks change terms of Alberta inquiry into environmentalist foreign funding, Inquiry investigating role of foreign funding, ‘if any,’ in anti-Alberta energy campaigns

Why isn’t Kenney’s War Room & Witch Hunt investigating & harassing Encana, 80 per cent foreign-funded, illegal aquifer frac’er? And why it ran away to the USA?

Hanky Panky hits anti-Alberta Inquiry Commissioner Steve Allen: Why give $905K (more than 1/3 the entire budget) to Dentons Canada, law firm where Allen’s son is partner, Steve Harper works and Alberta Justice Minister Schweitzer was partner. Why such expensive advice to catch some witches flying on brooms made with a few foreign parts? Smells mighty dirty & oily, what a corrupt shit show Alberta’s legal-judicial-political partnership is.

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

Kenney’s $2.5 Million “Public Inquiry” Witch Hunt has paid law firm Dentons Canada $905,000 so far! Is Steve Allen’s job to steal from Alberta taxpayers to give to lawyers in exchange for Kenney favours? What a toxic circus Alberta govt is.

Someone else suing the Hanky-Panky-infested AER? Will Steve Allen, Witchin’ Snitcher Collector, investigate?

Frac-Harmed Pennsylvania gets “criminal investigations” into the regulatory fraud, corruption and cover-up (eg turning post-pollution water test data into “baseline”). Frac-Harmed Alberta gets oil patch led Witch Snitch & Kenney’s Kopy Kat War Room, both with boasted intent to harm those concerned with life-threatening pollution, even though AER, Alberta Environment, Alberta Research Council (now Alberta Innovates) and Alberta politicians also engaged in fraud, corruption and cover-up.

CAPP/Kenney’s Snitch Submission Email for $2.5 Million “McCarthy style witch hunt” of courageous concerned citizens, to help polluting, job-decimating, billion $ profit-taking, largely foreign-owned multinationals. The Inquiry lies, says not linked to Kenney’s war room even though inquiry is reportedly paid for out of war room’s budget! Inquiry Commissioner Steve Allen is industry-biased of course: Was Director of Compton Petroleum, chaired Compton’s Audit Committee (company with a greedy sordid sour history)

Whither the Disclaimer? by Jack Nagler, CBC Ombudsman, Oct 4, 2021, CBC Radio-Canada

The Commissioner of Alberta’s Public Inquiry into Anti-Alberta Energy Campaigns, J. Stephens Allan, complained about coverage by CBC Edmonton earlier this year. Critics were upset that Mr. Allan had commissioned reports spreading discredited views on climate science. He asked why CBC’s initial stories failed to quote disclaimers he had published about the controversial reports that made clear he took no position on their content. My latest review assesses whether the disclaimers were essential to the coverage. 


You are the Commissioner of Alberta’s Public Inquiry into Anti-Alberta Energy Campaigns. According to the terms of reference on the inquiry’s website, its primary purpose has been to “inquire into the role of foreign funding, if any, in anti-Alberta energy campaigns….” You have delivered your final report to the government, although it has not yet been publicly released.

You expressed concerns about two related stories produced by CBC during the time you were doing your work. The first was an article published on January 14, 2021 under the headline “Critics denounce ‘climate-change denialism’ reports commissioned by Alberta inquiry”. The second was a radio segment the following morning in which CBC reporter Jennie Russell (one of the co-authors of the online article) appeared on the Edmonton AM program. 

Both the article and the radio interview focused on various reports the inquiry had commissioned. The article began as follows:

A $3.5-million Alberta government public inquiry into alleged foreign-funded anti-energy campaigns has posted commissioned studies that experts say are based on junk climate-denial science, bizarre conspiracy theories and oil-industry propaganda.

And here is how Ms. Russell was introduced on Edmonton AM:

Critics have long called Alberta’s public inquiry into alleged foreign funded attacks on the province’s energy industry, a politically-motivated witch-hunt. Now the inquiry is facing fresh accusations of bias. Some experts say reports ordered by the inquiry’s commissioner promote climate change denialism and conspiracy theories.

You felt there was a critical omission from CBC’s coverage:

I take no issue with the Journalists publishing or discussing critics of myself or the Inquiry in general or the Reports specifically. However, I do take issue with the Journalists either failing to note or choosing to ignore the key fact that the Inquiry published the Reports on the Inquiry’s website with a clear disclaimer that the Inquiry took no position on same. 

In the Article, the Journalists note at paragraph 4 that the Reports were shared publicly by the Inquiry in a posting to its website, providing a hyperlink: 

Recently, the Public Inquiry Into Funding of Anti-Alberta Campaigns posted on its website that it had invited 47 people or organizations to apply for standing as a “participant for commentary” in the inquiry.

However, at no point in the Article do the Journalists provide that I shared the Reports on the Inquiry’s website with a clear, direct disclaimer that the Inquiry takes no position with respect to their contents: 

The information and opinions expressed in the reports and other content provided to Participants for Commentary do not represent findings or positions taken by the Inquiry, but were given to Participants for Commentary to provide a platform to obtain perspectives and positions on policy issues of potential interest to the Inquiry. Participants for Commentary were invited to comment on certain aspects of the reports and other content, as well as to comment more generally regarding the subject matter of the Inquiry.

You added that your website also included similar disclaimers in the cover letters that you had sent when inviting people to apply for standing as a “Participant for Commentary” in the inquiry:

I wish to make it clear that the information and opinions expressed in the Reports do not represent findings or positions taken by the Inquiry, and instead are intended to provide a platform to obtain perspectives and positions on policy issues of potential interest to the Inquiry.

You said the omission of this information amounted to “misrepresentation” because it “failed to accurately capture” the relationship between the Inquiry and the reports it had commissioned. It added up to a violation of CBC’s Journalistic Standards and Practices:

The Journalists have an obligation to ensure that they are accurately reporting the Inquiry’s position with respect to the Reports – an obligation they failed to uphold. This failure is a violation of the CBC’s commitment to “understand and clearly explain the facts” to the CBC’s audience.

In failing to publish the Inquiry’s public positions in either the Article or the Interview, the Journalists have also failed to treat me fairly. The Journalists are investigative reporters who have represented themselves as “investigating” the Inquiry. They have written several pieces on the Inquiry already, and are well familiar with the Inquiry’s practice of putting its positions public on its website. Further, the Journalists have covered the Inquiry’s public releases on its website in the past, choosing to discuss these remarks in significantly more detail in previous reporting.

The Article and Interview were both represented as investigative journalism. The Journalists are obligated to treat me with “openness and respect” and to act “even-handedly”. Roaring laughter! Tit for tat Mr. Allen, Tit for tat! They are further obligated to “diligently attempt to present the point of view of the person or institution being investigated.” The Journalists failed to satisfy these obligations.


Stephanie Coombs, Director of Journalism and Programming for CBC Edmonton, replied to your complaint.  

She acknowledged that you had provided the disclaimer you described, and that it was on your website on January 13th, the day before the article appeared, and also the day reporters Charles Rusnell and Jennie Russell began working on the story. But she said there was additional context worth considering.

First, on the morning of the 14th, Mr. Rusnell had asked your communications director, Alan Boras, for an interview to respond to critics unhappy that you had commissioned the reports. That interview request was declined, and Mr. Boras did not provide any written statement or additional information for CBC to consider. 

CBC Edmonton then published the digital story that afternoon, without comment from you, and Ms. Russell prepared her materials for her appearance on Edmonton AM the next day at 8:10 am.

Shortly after 9:30 am on Jan. 15, Mr. Boras issued a news release drawing attention to the new statement posted on the inquiry website.

Ms. Russell notified her colleagues on the digital team, and the story was quickly updated with the new information. The radio piece of course couldn’t be updated, as it had already aired.

Ms. Coombs acknowledged that you and your team had every right to decline an interview or to produce a statement in advance of publication. However, she added:

I feel it relevant to point out there has been intense public interest over the past several months in the inquiry, its work and its timelines, of which you are undoubtedly aware. And by the time Mr. Rusnell contacted Mr. Boras on Jan. 14 to ask for an interview, there was already a robust discussion growing about the reports, much of it sparked by the blog post by University of Calgary law professor Martin Olszynski, a participant in the inquiry. His blog was posted and promoted online that morning, so it and the subsequent attention by other media outlets certainly would have reached your office by 2 pm when Mr. Boras declined Mr. Rusnell’s request.

Ms. Coombs pointed out that the story never made the claim that the reports were the opinions of the inquiry. She added that had you or Mr. Boras expressed concern the day the story was published and offered a reaction or statement, CBC would have added it immediately, noting that CBC did add your reaction as soon as you issued your statement the next day.

Nevertheless, she appeared to concede your point that the original story ought to have included reference to the disclaimer:

While I am of the opinion that you had opportunity to provide your perspective prior to 9:30 am on Jan. 15, and that the stories did not suggest the reports were endorsed by you or the inquiry, I also believe we can, and should, try to provide as much context as possible to our audience to help them understand issues. Therefore, when you did not issue a statement or agree to an interview on Jan. 14, Ms. Russell and Mr. Rusnell should have included a line in both the digital and radio stories about the disclaimer posted on the website. This would have given the audience an additional piece of information about the role of the reports.


You wrote that you appreciated Ms. Coombs’ acknowledgement that the disclaimers should have been included in CBC’s coverage. But ultimately you were dissatisfied by the reply, suggesting that it failed to accept that the journalists had responsibility to know about them and include them in their stories:

Ms. Coombs appears to suggest repeatedly that, even if the Inquiry’s  publishing of the Disclaimers was helpful “context”, it is ultimately the Inquiry’s responsibility to ensure that its public positions are published by the CBC by providing them in some form of comment to its journalists. I do not think it a defensible journalistic practice to place a positive obligation on myself or the Inquiry to provide comments to journalists simply to ensure the Inquiry’s public position is put  on the record. 

You added that this was particularly important because of your own legal obligations as commissioner of the inquiry to “avoid engaging in public debate or discourse that might impair the perception of my impartiality.”

As a result, you asked me to conduct a review that you hoped would lead to four conclusions:

  • the Disclaimers ought to have been noted in both the Article and the Interview, as conceded by Ms. Coombs; 
  • by failing to do so, the Journalists functionally misrepresented the Inquiry’s relationship to the  Reports; 
  • the Journalists violated the CBC’s Standards in its publication of the Article and the Interview;  and 
  • when covering matters relating to the Inquiry, CBC’s Standards provide a positive obligation on its journalists to review the Inquiry’s website, take note of the Inquiry’s position on the relevant matter, and note that position in whatever work product is published as a result,  whether or not the Inquiry provides comment relating to same. 


CBC’s Journalistic Standards and Practices, also known as the JSP, makes it clear that journalists are expected to do research and/or verification before reporting a story:

We invest our time and our skills to learn, understand and clearly explain the facts to our audience.

In this instance, CBC’s reporters knew as they began their work that the inquiry had commissioned these reports. And they knew that there were observers who criticized the nature of these reports and criticized the inquiry for spending public dollars on them. 

So it is natural that they would want to include in their story two types of information to explain the perspective of the inquiry: why you commissioned the reports, and how you responded to the criticism. Reporter Charles Rusnell approached your spokesperson to ask these questions, but the inquiry chose not to answer them. 

You are correct that the inquiry had no obligation to provide an interview or a statement. Your concern about the need to maintain a perception of impartiality is understandable, but it was unnecessary to state it. You do not need a reason to decline an interview; it is always your prerogative. 

You are also correct that CBC journalists have an obligation to try to understand the inquiry’s position on whatever issue is at hand, with or without an interview. However, that does not equate to an obligation that CBC regurgitate whatever you put on your website. OMG, so funny! Slap! Slap! Without an interview upon which to reply, the journalists needed to examine the statements on your site, and then decide which – if any – were relevant and sufficient to explain your views in the context of this particular story. 

The disclaimers, having been posted before any of the public criticism, could not be deemed a response to that public criticism. Therefore, in order for them to be considered essential to the story, they needed to provide insight into why these particular reports were commissioned. 

In my judgment, the disclaimer did not actually do that. It said only that these reports were “given to Participants for Commentary to provide a platform to obtain perspectives and positions on policy issues of potential interest to the Inquiry.” That explained how the inquiry was using the reports after they were completed, but offered only the vague hint of an answer to the key question that CBC was asking – why were they considered legitimate enough to be commissioned in the first place?

As a result, I do not concur with your assertion that the omission of the disclaimers from the original article and the morning radio interview amounted to a misrepresentation of the inquiry’s relationship to the reports. 

Now, would I have preferred that CBC include the disclaimers in their story? Yes. This would have helped the audience understand that the inquiry had said something in public about these reports, even if it did not answer the key questions. That would have been more informative than saying simply, as the article did, that you had declined an interview request. It also would have been a more overt and obvious demonstration of fairness to your inquiry.

Nonetheless, the omission in the original was not so glaring that it made the article either unfair, or inaccurate. I believe that Ms. Coombs struck the right balance in her response to you. While CBC would have been wise to incorporate the disclaimers into its coverage, their absence was not a fundamental flaw.

Circumstances changed the next morning, when the inquiry published its statement. Although this was, in many ways, a reiteration of the original disclaimer, now it was clear that this was meant to be your response to the public criticism. That made it relevant and essential to report. And CBC did just that, by promptly inserting that information into the story. 

There was no violation of journalistic standards in either the article, or the radio interview. 


Jack Nagler
CBC Ombudsman

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