Key Findings from the Alberta Commissioner’s Report
Jan 2022 Charity & NFP Law Update
Published on January 27 2022

By Terrance S. Carter
   
 

The Government of Alberta published a lengthy (657-page) Report by the Commissioner of the Alberta Public Inquiry into Anti-Alberta Energy Campaigns (the “Report”) on October 21, 2021, the latest in the ongoing discussion about the role environmental charities play in Alberta’s energy sector. The Commissioner was appointed on July 4, 2019 “to inquire into the role of foreign funding, if any, in anti-Alberta energy campaigns” and delivered an interim report on January 31, 2020. The final Report was submitted to the Honourable Sonya Savage, Minister of Energy, on July 30, 2021, and was later published by the Alberta government on October 21, 2021.

Essential to understanding the Report is the definition of an “anti-Alberta energy campaign”. The Commissioner defines “anti-Alberta energy campaign” to be “a campaign that involves attempts to frustrate the development of Alberta’s oil and gas resources in a broad and general sense”. The specific reference to “anti-Alberta”, the Report notes, is a reference to Alberta “as a geographic modifier” and should not give “any connotation that opposition to oil and gas development in Alberta is ‘against Alberta’ or its interests in any sense”. The Commissioner concluded that “I do not find that participation in an anti-Alberta energy campaign is in any way improper or constitutes conduct that should in any way be impugned, nor do I find that it indicates a party is ‘pro’ or ‘anti’ Albertan”. In this regard, charities involved in such campaigns were not found by the Report to be engaging in improper activities. This conclusion is an important vindication for the many environmental charities that were involved in the energy debate after a decade of scrutiny as was reported on in Charity Law Bulletin No. 286.

The Report also raised concerns about a perceived lack of transparency with regard to how funds are spent by charities in their activities. In this regard, the Commissioner had difficulty tracing funds received by charities from both foreign and domestic sources to the activities carried out by those charities, in part due to the limited resources which did not allow him to examine grantors and recipients under oath as well as the way information is reported in T3010s. These difficulties informed the Commissioner’s first recommendation to “[d]evelop standards for not-for-profit/charitable organizations and public institutions that provide a level of consistency and a more level playing field with the corporate sector, in terms of transparency, accountability and governance”. The Report emphasized that “greater transparency is required in respect of funding in the charity/non-profit sector” in order to encourage “more open and transparent dialogue on matters of importance” and not stifle parties’ abilities to exercise their fundamental rights and freedoms, such as freedom of expression, assembly, and association.

   
 

Read the January 2022 Charity & NFP Law Update