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Inquiry into foreign-funded anti-oil campaigns criticized for being over budget

Last Updated Sep 16, 2020 at 1:29 pm MDT

Premier Jason Kenney and Energy Minister Sonya Savage announce the start of the Canadian Energy Centre at SAIT in Calgary on Dec. 11, 2019 (PHOTO: Tom Ross, 660 NEWS)

CALGARY (660 NEWS) – An inquiry to investigate if foreign-funded special interest groups are spreading misinformation about Alberta’s energy industry is being scrutinized for going over budget.

Inquiry Commissioner Steve Allan was given $2.5 million and a deadline of July 2 to determine if money coming from outside Canada has funded environmental campaigns against oil and gas produced in Alberta.

In June, Allan received an extension and another million dollars and revealed the inquiry doesn’t have the resources to fact check the groups allegedly spreading false information.

“Taxpayers should be concerned that it’s over budget by an extra million dollars,” said Franco Terrazzano with the Canadian Taxpayers Federation. “Why did Allan need an extra million bucks to tell us he doesn’t have the time and money to complete the inquiry? Why did he ask for an extra one-million if he can’t complete the work?”

RELATED: Alberta probe into foreign funding of anti-oil groups extended to October

In June, Energy Minister Sonya Savage said the initial findings from the inquiry showed more work is needed to complete the final report.

The inquiry was an election promise by Premier Jason Kenney, who believes foreign funders are pulling the strings on domestic protesters to undermine Alberta’s oil and gas industry.

Critics have said Allan is not fact-finding but out to prove a pre-determined conclusion and in doing so, are harming the reputations of those who legitimately and lawfully question the expansion of oil and gas operations.

Terrazzano also said taxpayers deserve to know what the inquiry has achieved so far.

“Now that we’ve spent the money, we need to see what’s done. There’s a key transparency issue, the interim report needs to be made public. Taxpayers spent a lot of money on this and we deserve to see the details.”

Terrazzano believes taxpayers also need proof the $30-million-a-year energy war room is working, adding that while many Albertans want to support oil and gas workers, the war room has come off as a waste of time and money.

“I think, to date, the war room has been a clumsy government PR firm. We have $100 billion debt, we have the largest deficit in the province’s history.”

WATCH: Alberta’s ‘war room’ officially opens

The Canadian Energy Centre was launched last December as a way to combat misleading information from foreign-funded groups on Alberta’s energy sector.

In March, the government announced it was slashing the budget for the energy centre to just under $3 million, despite calls from the Opposition to completely scrap it.

-with files from The Canadian Press