‘Hyperbolic’: Longtime Edmonton charity questions ‘anti-Albertan’ inquiry

‘Hyperbolic’: Longtime Edmonton charity questions ‘anti-Albertan’ inquiry

Inquiry was called earlier this year to fulfil a campaign promise by Premier Jason Kenney’s United Conservative

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 Muttart Foundation was created in 1953 by Merrill and Gladys Muttart, who were behind several successful construction-related businesses. Their $43-million foundation funds early childhood education and care as well as helping other charities.

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.

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.”

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.

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.”

Bob Weber, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

SARS-CoV-2 virus particles, which causes COVID-19, emerge from the surface of cells isolated from a patient in the U.S. and cultured in a lab in a 2020 electron microscope image. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-HO, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases - Rocky Mountain Laboratories
Alberta now has 17,743 active cases of COVID-19

Province now has 17,743 active cases

File Photo
Sylvan Lake Community Christmas Eve Dinner cancelled

The 20th anniversary of the Community Christmas Eve dinner is cancelled amidst COVID-19 concerns

The consensus around the Sylvan Lake council chamber Wednesday was the town does not have the ability to properly enforce a proposed mandatory indoor mask bylaw. File Photo
Sylvan Lake town council squashes mask bylaw

The bylaw did not make it past first reading, after a 4-3 vote defeated the motion

Sylvan Lake RCMP are looking for the identity of the suspect who stole from over 40 resident mail boxes. (Photo Courtesy of Sylvan Lake RCMP)
Over 40 mailboxes broken into at Sylvan Lake apartment building

Sylvan Lake RCMP are investigating the incident and searching for the identity of the suspect

Ten-month-old Aidan Deschamps poses for a photo with his parents Amanda Sully and Adam Deschamps in this undated handout photo. Ten-month-old Aidan Deschamps was the first baby in Canada to be diagnosed with spinal muscular atrophy through Ontario’s newborn screening program. The test was added to the program six days before he was born. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, Children’s Hospital Eastern Ontario *MANDATORY CREDIT*
First newborn tested for spinal muscular atrophy in Canada hits new milestones

‘If Aidan had been born any earlier or anywhere else our story would be quite different’

People line up at a COVID-19 assessment centre during the COVID-19 pandemic in Scarborough, Ont., on Wednesday, December 2, 2020. Toronto and Peel region continue to be in lockdown. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
COVID-19 vaccine approval could be days away as pressures mount on health-care system

Many health officials in regions across the country have reported increasing pressures on hospitals

A logo for Netflix on a remote control is seen in Portland, Ore.,Aug. 13, 2020. Experts in taxation and media say a plan announced Monday by the government will ultimately add to the cost of digital services and goods sold by foreign companies. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Jenny Kane
‘Netflix tax’ for digital media likely to raise prices for consumers, experts say

The government says Canadian companies already collect those taxes when they make digital sales

Gaming content was big on YouTube in 2020. (Black Press Media files)
What did Canadians watch on Youtube during isolation? Workouts, bird feeders

Whether it was getting fit or ‘speaking moistly,’ Canadians had time to spare this year

A teacher places the finishing touches on the welcome sign at Hunter’s Glen Junior Public School which is part of the Toronto District School Board (TDSB) during the COVID-19 pandemic in Scarborough, Ont., on Sept. 14, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Hindsight 2020: How do you preserve a year many Canadians would rather forget?

Figuring out how to preserve the story of the pandemic poses a series of challenges

Team Manitoba celebrate after defeating Team Ontario to win the Scotties Tournament of Hearts in Moose Jaw, Sask., Sunday, Feb. 23, 2020. Curling Canada wants Calgary’s Canada Olympic Park to be a curling hub for the season’s top events. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Calgary facility set to become curling hub during pandemic

Curling Canada has provisional approval for Calgary’s hub-city concept from Alberta Health

Ash and Lisa Van carry a freshly cut Christmas tree while wearing personal protective masks at a Christmas Tree Farm in Egbert, Ontario, Sunday, Nov. 29, 2020 THE CANADIAN PRESS/ Cole Burston
‘Everyone wants a tree and they want it now’: Christmas tree sales on pace for record

Anticipated demand for Christmas trees has sparked a rush by some to purchase more trees wholesale

Most Read