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CBC | TheRockies.Life Staff

Court Rejects Kenney’s ‘Hyperlink Defence’ Yet Smith’s Government Keeps Paying for His Lawyers 

Jason Kenney's ill-fated 'Anti-Albertan' Public Inquiry is still causing problems. And the people of Alberta are the ones paying to defend his outrageous claims

Danielle Smith’s political antics have been getting lots of headlines. 

Her decision to stop approving renewable energy projects, her fight with the federal government about clean electricity, her threat to invoke the Alberta Sovereignty Act, her restructuring of Alberta Health Services (AHS) and her recent ‘parental rights’ campaign all are generating headlines and controversy.  

There is simply so much to talk about regarding all things Danielle.

But there’s one little ‘secret’ that Smith never mentions: that her Government is paying for high-priced lawyers to defend former Premier Jason Kenney in a defamation lawsuit.

Jason Kenney, remember him?

You may remember that Premier Smith and former Premier Kenney don’t like each other. 

It makes sense, given that Smith basically helped push him out of his job.

So, then, why is Smith paying expensive lawyers to defend Kenney?

A Short History

The roots of the controversy trace back to Kenney’s 2019 election campaign.  

During the election, Kenney said he had “undeniable proof that Alberta’s interests are being challenged and thwarted… blocked in and pinned down by well-funded foreign actors who have been waging a long-term campaign to landlock Alberta oil using partisan political tactics and outright misinformation in their campaign of defamation.

After the election, then-Premier Kenney appointed Commissioner Steve Allan to track down these ‘evil doers,’ in a Public Inquiry into Anti-Albertan Energy Campaigns

The Inquiry–which spanned over 28 months and cost Albertans $3.5 million–was tasked with uncovering the smoking guns.

Unfortunately for Kenney and the Alberta government, the proof never materialized. 

The findings of Allan’s report did not align with Kenney’s chosen storyline. 

Despite examining nearly 40 environmental groups’ activities, Commissioner Allan concluded the targetted groups did nothing “in any way improper or constitutes conduct that should be in any way impugned.” 

Kenney had his guns fully loaded to shoot bandits. The only problem was the Inquiry concluded there were no outlaws.

Instead, it found the targeted environmental groups were simply exercising their freedom of speech. They were advocating for conservation and sustainable practices, not engaging in a campaign against Alberta’s energy sector. 

Facts Are So Damn Inconvenient!

Kenney didn’t like the result of Allan’s report, but if he and his government had just accepted the Inquiry’s conclusions and moved on, then that would have been the end of the sordid affair. 

Instead,  Kenney posted on his social media pages that “the report confirms the existence of well-funded, decade-long campaigns based on misinformation that have impacted the lives and livelihoods of Albertans.” The government website posted key findings with similar misrepresentations.

That’s a big problem, because that’s not what the Inquiry concluded. 

When called out by the environmental groups for the discrepancy between the report and Kenney’s postings, Kenney refused to correct his misrepresentations and refused to apologize. 

So five of the targeted groups–Environmental Defense, Wilderness Committee,, DogwoodBC, and West Coast Environmental Law–filed a defamation lawsuit against Kenney and the Government. 

They accused Kenney and the Alberta government of using his office to lie about the inquiry’s outcomes and to discredit their environmental advocacy, seeking damages for the harm caused by these actions.

The lawsuit’s core argument was that Kenney’s public statements and social media posts misrepresented the inquiry’s findings, which did not find any wrongdoing by the environmental groups. 

Instead of acknowledging the inquiry’s actual conclusions, Kenney continued to make inflammatory posts saying these groups were spreading misinformation about Alberta’s oil and gas industry, an accusation that Commissioner Allan’s report explicitly refuted.

The Court Rejected Kenney’s Lame Defence.

Jason Kenney and the government tried to get the defamation lawsuit thrown out of court.

The government-funded lawyers defending Kenney didn’t argue that his statements were factually accurate–and, therefore, were not defamatory–instead, they argued that Kenney did not directly name the groups in his tweets and, thus, should not be held accountable.

They claimed that Kenney wasn’t referring to the named groups in his posts but to some other unnamed groups. 

But Court of King’s Bench Justice Avril Inglis didn’t buy it and rejected Kenney’s attempt to dismiss the case. 

Justice Inglis dismissed what’s been called Kenney’s “Hyperlink Defence.”  The Court ruled that defamation law could not be avoided by merely separating defamatory statements and the identity of the defamed through hyperlinks.

It was apparent to all, including the judge, the groups to which Kenney was referring.

The environmental groups want an apology and damages for the defamatory posts but want a precedent to prevent public officials from misusing their power to bully critics by using Public Inquiries for political gain.

Kenney’s refusal to apologize, accept the findings of the Allan report, and admit his part in the spreading of misinformation is still costing Albertans money.

If any ‘anti-Albertan’ behaviour occurs here, surely it is from Jason Kenney.

When they make mistakes, Albertans own up to them and make good.

Danielle Smith, for her part, remains silent.

The big question is whether Premier Smith will keep wasting Albertans’ money to defend Kenney’s lies. 

Albertans work hard for their money, and they don’t want it going to fat cat lawyers trying to put lipstick on a pig.

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