December 03, 2012
Public inquiry needed into Premier's potential conflict-of-interest
EDMONTON, AB (December 3, 2012): The Wildrose Official Opposition is today calling on Ethics Commissioner Neil Wilkinson to use his public inquiry powers to investigate the conflict-of-interest allegations against Premier Alison Redford or alternatively recuse himself from the investigation and allow an independent third party to carry it out.
In a letter dated Nov. 30, Wildrose Official Opposition Leader Danielle Smith formally requested Wilkinson investigate Redford’s role in awarding a $10 billion litigation contract to a consortium that includes a law firm with deep ties to her and the Progressive Conservative party. Wildrose House Leader Rob Anderson followed that up with a letter today asking Wilkinson to use the powers given to him under Section 25 of the Conflicts of Interest Act to conduct a public inquiry into the matter. The letter also states that should Wilkinson prefer to keep the investigation private that he should call in one of his counterparts from another province to conduct it. “We believe this issue warrants a full public inquiry and we are calling on the Ethics Commissioner to use the powers he has to conduct one,” Smith said. “The integrity of our highest political office is at stake and Albertans are demanding to know the truth.” Anderson said Wilkinson’s past rulings on conflict of interest cases – namely, his decision to waive the “cooling-off” period for Evan Berger because he was part of the “government family” – have created the appearance that his independence from government is in doubt. “The Ethics Commissioner’s public reputation has recently suffered in the eyes of the public,” Anderson said. “In order for this investigation to be successful, it must either be a full public inquiry or it must be conducted by an outside, independent individual. It must be an impartial investigation so Albertans can have confidence in the outcome.” Wildrose is concerned there have likely been violations of Section 3 of the Conflicts of Interest Act, which prohibits a member from using her office to make a decision that improperly furthers another person’s private interest. As Smith’s letter states:
- There was a close and ongoing personal and political relationship between a Member who was deciding which firm would be retained for the Tobacco Litigation and the firm that was awarded the contract;
- The decision seems to have been influenced by a single criteria (on-going litigation with Government of Alberta) that was introduced into the decision making process after the process was underway;
- There appears to have been an intentional limiting of the number of people involved in preparing for the decision;
- The decision appears to have been made very hastily and under unusual timelines; and
- While perceived and actual conflicts of interest, namely whether any of the candidate firms were involved in litigation adverse to the Government of Alberta, appear to have been considered for the purpose of limiting the number of candidate law firms viewed as eligible for the retainer, the seemingly obvious conflict of interest between Ms. Redford and one of the candidate firms appears to have either been overlooked or ignored.