Premier Jason Kenney has filed his defence in a defamation lawsuit brought against him by environmental groups over his remarks on the release of an inquiry into supposed misinformation about Alberta’s energy industry.
And Kenney doubled down on his attacks on such groups Friday, blaming them for making the world more dependent on oil from Vladimir Putin’s Russia.
“They should apologize,” Kenney said at a press conference. “They should apologize for allowing the world’s worst regimes to have a larger share of global energy markets.”
The lawsuit against Kenney was filed last month by Environmental Defence, West Coast Environmental Law, Stand. Earth, Dogwood and the Western Canada Wilderness Committee.
In documents filed in response to the lawsuit, the premier argues there was no defamation because the statement in question wasn’t aimed at anyone.
“It does not identify the plaintiffs,” says the document.
The groups allege the premier defamed them by twisting inquiry commissioner Steve Allan’s findings into whether the groups were using foreign funding to spread misinformation about Alberta’s energy industry and landlock its oil.
Allan wrote that he found no organized campaign of misinformation. Nothing illegal happened and the groups were merely exercising their free speech rights.
But the plaintiffs say after the report was released, the government said its finding “confirms” a long-standing misinformation campaign against the industry. Those statements appeared on a government website as well as Kenney’s Facebook page and Twitter feed.
Kenney’s defence says there is no defamation because his remarks don’t identify any of the groups that brought the lawsuit.
“The web page, the Facebook post, and the tweet do not and cannot reasonably be understood to refer to the plaintiffs, as alleged or at all,” says the document filed Wednesday in Edmonton Court of Queen’s Bench.
“The Key Findings document does not allege that any of these organizations disseminated misinformation, or otherwise indicate that they participated in the decade-long campaign of misinformation mentioned above … The Facebook post and the tweet do not mention any of the plaintiffs, nor do they link to the web page.”
Even if they could be, the defence document says Kenney’s remarks were fair comment and adds the plaintiffs are unable to show they suffered any damages from them.
Kenney’s lawyer, Matt Woodley, declined to comment on a matter before the courts.
But Paul Champ, the lawyer for the environmentalists, scoffed at Kenney’s defence.
“It’s disingenuous and absurd,” he said. “Who is he referring to if he’s not referring to the groups?”
All five plaintiffs were mentioned in Allan’s report.
Asked about the lawsuit at a press conference in Canmore, Alta., announcing funding for a cross-country ski facility, Kenney didn’t back down.
“I find it fascinating they’re willing to dump millions of dollars into political and legal efforts to undermine Canadian energy exports and they’re surprised when somebody shines a spotlight on their efforts. We’re not going to apologize.”
Asked who his remarks were aimed at if not the plaintiffs, Kenney responded: “The organizations that have campaigned to landlock Alberta energy.”
Champ said maintaining that a public inquiry concluded something that it didn’t crosses the boundaries of legitimate political debate.
“Kenney has been smearing these groups regularly, but this is a bit different. This was a public inquiry that the public should have some confidence in.
“Premier Kenney deliberately misrepresented the findings of this inquiry.”
Champ said the lawsuit will now probably wind up in court.
– Bob Weber, The Canadian Press