Danielle In QP, November 29: Tobacco Recovery Lawsuit

Ms Smith: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Arthur Schafer, director of the Centre for Professional and Applied Ethics at the University of Manitoba, has reacted to this situation involving the perceived conflict of interest and is scathing in his assessment. I will table his biography later today in the event that the hon. members on the other side wish to see it. He has said: the Minister of Justice, in my view, behaved blank and possibly blank by not recusing herself in making this decision in this matter. What is the Premier’s defence?

Mr. Mason: Don’t be glib, Thomas.

Mr. Lukaszuk: That’s right. One has to be very cautious when using blanks because I’m certainly tempted to do so.

Mr. Speaker, I have to tell you this. The Premier has been very clear that at the time when the final decision was made, it was made by a different Minister of Justice. Frankly, the Premier was not in cabinet at that time, and I can attest to that myself personally. The fact is that there is no conflict of interest. The best firm was chosen through an open process, was at the lowest cost to Albertans, and had the best expertise to recover money for Albertans from tobacco companies. Now not only are they alleging that there is a problem with that, but the Law Society is somehow implicated in that.

Ms Smith: Mr. Speaker, just because her successor affirmed the decision that she made does not negate the fact that she made the decision. All three consortiums were considered capable. No one consortium stood out before the others, and shortly before Christmas she was the one who selected the International Tobacco Recovery Lawyers. Professor Schafer says this on that: her failing to recognize or failing to act after recognizing she was in a conflict of interest is worse than shabby; it is shameful.

The Speaker: Hon. member, question, please.

Ms Smith: How can the Premier defend herself?

Mr. Denis: Again, Mr. Speaker, the defence is relatively easy. The Premier was not a cabinet minister. She stepped down to run for the leadership of the party in February of 2011. She came back as Premier in October of 2011. The decision was made during the time she was not a cabinet minister, not the Premier. I fail to see what the issue is here. I think the member should look at her notes.

Ms Smith: With all of the evidence suggesting at a minimum the perception of conflict, why did the then Justice minister not stay out of the decision completely?

Mr. Denis: Again, Mr. Speaker, she didn’t make the decision. The decision was made by another member of cabinet. She was not even a member of cabinet. There is no conflict of interest whatsoever.