The article you just read was brought to you by a few thousand dedicated readers. Will you join them?

Thanks for coming by The Tyee and reading one of many original articles we’ll post today. Our team works hard to publish in-depth stories on topics that matter on a daily basis. Our motto is: No junk. Just good journalism.

Just as we care about the quality of our reporting, we care about making our stories accessible to all who want to read them and provide a pleasant reading experience. No intrusive ads to distract you. No paywall locking you out of an article you want to read. No clickbait to trick you into reading a sensational article.

There’s a reason why our site is unique and why we don’t have to rely on those tactics — our Tyee Builders program. Tyee Builders are readers who chip in a bit of money each month (or one-time) to our editorial budget. This amazing program allows us to pay our writers fairly, keep our focus on quality over quantity of articles, and provide a pleasant reading experience for those who visit our site.

In the past year, we’ve been able to double our staff team and boost our reporting. We invest all of the revenue we receive into producing more and better journalism. We want to keep growing, but we need your support to do it.

Fewer than 1 in 100 of our average monthly readers are signed up to Tyee Builders. If we reach 1% of our readers signing up to be Tyee Builders, we could continue to grow and do even more.

If you appreciate what The Tyee publishes and want to help us do more, please sign up to be a Tyee Builder today. You pick the amount, and you can cancel any time.

Support our growing independent newsroom and join Tyee Builders today.
Canada needs more independent media. And independent media needs you.

Did you know that most news organizations in Canada are owned by just a handful of companies? And that these companies have been shutting down newsrooms and laying off reporters continually over the past few decades?

Fact-based, credible journalism is essential to our democracy. Unlike many other newsrooms across the country, The Tyee’s independent newsroom is stable and growing.

How are we able to do this? The Tyee Builder program. Tyee Builders are readers who chip into our editorial budget so that we can keep doing what we do best: fact-based, in-depth reporting on issues that matter to our readers. No paywall. No junk. Just good journalism.

Fewer than 1 in 100 of our average monthly readers are signed up to be Tyee Builders. If we reach 1% of our readers signing up to be Tyee Builders, we could continue to grow and do even more.

If you appreciate what The Tyee publishes and want to help us do more, please sign up to be a Tyee Builder today. You pick the amount, and you can cancel any time.

Support our growing independent newsroom and join Tyee Builders today.
We value: Our readers.
Our independence. Our region.
The power of real journalism.
We're reader supported.
Get our newsletter free.
Help pay for our reporting.
BC Election 2019 Category
Election 2019

Jason Kenney’s Dumb Inquiry

We could use an honest probe into foreign political funding and meddling. His version is not that.

By David Climenhaga 11 Jul 2019 |

David J. Climenhaga is an award-winning journalist, author, post-secondary teacher, poet and trade union communicator. He blogs at, where this column first appeared. Follow him on Twitter at @djclimenhaga.

In truth, Canada needs a thorough and honest inquiry into foreign political funding, online manipulation and influence.

Unfortunately, the $2.5-million probe into “foreign funded defamation” of Alberta’s fossil-fuel industry announced by Alberta Premier Jason Kenney’s government last week at a news conference in Calgary isn’t it.

How could it be? It’s been established to buttress a widely criticized conspiracy theory that proved useful to the United Conservative Party’s election campaign and may yet have some utility in the efforts of Andrew Scheer and the Conservative Party of Canada to win the federal election this fall.

But as was said here when this “inquiry” was still an irresponsible election promise dreamed up by the UCP’s Rebel Media-inspired campaign team, this can be an honest inquiry, or it can be what the government has promised it will be, but it can’t be both.

If you’re looking for a first indicator of which way it’s going to roll, consider the fact it’s not led by an impartial and disinterested judge, as any serious inquiry into any serious issue would be.

I don’t know if Justice Minister Doug Schweitzer, who with Energy Minister Sonya Savage seems to be stuck with handling this likely-to-be-embarrassing file, actually talked to any judges about leading this effort, but if he did he must have been laughed out of chambers.

Instead, the inquiry into what Kenney called “a well-funded political propaganda campaign to defame our energy industry and to land-lock our resources” to the advantage of U.S. energy companies by the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, the Tides Foundation and other U.S. charitable entities will be led by the chair of Calgary Economic Development.

Look, I’m sure Steve Allan is a fine fellow and the “leading forensic and restructuring accountant” described in the government’s news release, but giving responsibility to the leader of a city office set up to sell corporate investors on the benefits of opening branch offices in Cowtown is not a sound strategy for a serious inquiry. Giving the holder of such an office the title of commissioner and subpoena power under the province’s Public Inquiries Act is ludicrous.

As CED describes itself on its website, “Calgary Economic Development is a conduit, connector, catalyst and storyteller.” It’s fair to say, at least, that Allan obviously has the right background for the job Kenney obviously has in mind for him.

But only a judge could be the “effective and impartial commissioner,” Schweitzer described. And it’s doubtful any judge would take on an inquiry with the terms of reference of this one.

It’s also not a good sign that Kenney repeatedly pointed to commentaries by a Vancouver blogger beloved of the energy industry to back up his dubious claim that $75 million has been expended on this conspiracy.

NDP Economic Development Critic Deron Bilous described the inquiry as a “glorified Google search,” but Vancouver-based environmentalist Tzeporah Berman came closer to the mark when she tweeted that “what is disturbing about this Alberta Inquiry is government using power of the state to harass citizens who disagree with their agenda to expand the oil and gas industry despite the growing threat of climate change. This Inquiry is about civil liberties.”

Even Stephen Harper committed to phasing out fossil fuels in this century, Berman noted in another tweet. “Attacking free speech will not turn back the clock.”

Energy journalist Markham Hislop called the inquiry the “Un-Alberta Activities Committee” and described its mandate as conducting a “witch hunt.”

Indeed, Premier Kenney described the tactics of this supposed “disinformation and defamation” campaign as “litigation, public protests and political lobbying,” all activities that are protected by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, in case the UCP missed it.

So if Kenney expects to use the findings of this inquiry as the basis of a legal effort to harass and sue critics of the fossil fuel industry, the outcome in the courts is likely to be both disappointing and expensive for Alberta taxpayers, even if they sincerely believe Alberta’s fossil fuel industry has been badly done by.

The premier half-heartedly conceded this point yesterday, responding to a reporter’s question with the admission “we can’t project in outside jurisdictions.” D’ya think? Anyone basing a lawsuit on the findings of this group will be laughed out of court, and not just an American court either.

Anyway, it’ll be a relief to Alberta taxpayers and voters to learn the causes of the energy industry’s troubles are not, as the Houston Chronicle explained on Tuesday, caused by rising production, weakening demand and skeptical investors.

The inquiry is supposed to report on July 2, 2020. That’s the Thursday after a mid-week Canada Day holiday, an excellent day to bury any disappointment if the findings turn out to be somewhat underwhelming.

The Tyee’s federal election coverage is made possible by readers who pitched in to our election reporting fund. Read more about how The Tyee developed our reader-powered election reporting plan and see all of our stories here.  [Tyee]

Share this article

The Tyee is supported by readers like you

Join us and grow independent media in Canada

Facts matter. Get The Tyee's in-depth journalism delivered to your inbox for free.

Tyee Commenting Guidelines

Do not:

  •  Use sexist, classist, racist or homophobic language
  • Libel or defame
  • Bully, threaten, name-call or troll
  • Troll patrol. Instead, downvote, or flag suspect activity
  • Attempt to guess other commenters’ real-life identities


  • Verify facts, debunk rumours
  • Add context and background
  • Spot typos and logical fallacies
  • Highlight reporting blind spots
  • Ignore trolls and flag violations
  • Treat all with respect and curiosity
  • Stay on topic
  • Connect with each other


The Barometer

What Issue Is Most Important to You This Election?

Take this week's poll