EDMONTON, AB (June 5, 2012): Energy Minister Ken Hughes should immediately suspend hearings of the Retail Market Review Committee pending an investigation into one of the committee members who appears to have a conflict of interest. Rick Cowburn sits on the four-person committee tasked with reviewing Alberta’s electricity market in order to reduce price volatility for power consumers.
According to their website, Cowburn also sits on the board of directors for SPARK, a small Alberta-based electricity retailer. This information is not disclosed on member bio section of the Retail Market Review Committee’s website. The Committee, which was struck prior to provincial election at Premier Alison Redford’s request and billed as independent, is holding stakeholder meetings in Calgary all this week. SPARK was also the second stakeholder to present to the Committee last week. Wildrose Official Opposition Leader Danielle Smith said having an electricity retailer on the Committee calls into question its independence. “This doesn’t pass the smell test,” Smith said. “An independent committee responsible for determining electricity prices shouldn’t have an electricity retailer on it. Minister Hughes should suspend the Committee’s hearings immediately and investigate.” Last week, Wildrose Utilities critic Joe Anglin raised the issue with Hughes in Question Period. Hughes responded by saying, “I would contend that the committee is an independent committee.”