Ethics probe into Alberta Premier Alison Redford over tobacco contract on the way

Ethics probe into Alberta Premier Alison Redford over tobacco contract on the way by James Wood, November 7, 2013, Calgary Herald
A long-awaited ethics investigation into Premier Alison Redford’s handling of the government’s tobacco lawsuit contract when she was justice minister is likely coming in the next few weeks. Bradley Odsen, general counsel in the ethics commissioner’s office, said he hoped for the review to be made public within a month. “You’ll want to stay tuned,” he said in an interview. “We’re most anxious to get it out as soon as we possibly can and we believe very strongly that it’s in everybody’s interest that that happen.” Opposition parties have raised concerns about how long the investigation has taken. Odsen said the report will also outline the processes and timelines involved in the investigation, which will explain why it has taken as long as it has to be made public. He said he could make no further comment on the report.

Ethics commissioner Neil Wilkinson notified provincial opposition leaders in a Jan. 4 letter that he would investigate complaints they filed against Redford in late November. At issue is whether Redford did anything inappropriate as government decided in 2010 and 2011 which legal consortium to hire to represent the province in its $10-billion lawsuit against tobacco companies to recover health-care costs tied to smoking. Opposition parties have alleged that Redford inappropriately played a role in the decision to award the potentially lucrative litigation contract to a consortium known as International Tobacco Recovery Lawyers. That group of law firms includes the firm where Redford’s ex-husband, Robert Hawkes, who later served on her transition team, is a partner. Former spouses are not covered under conflict of interest legislation but the Wildrose, NDP and Liberals have argued the personal and professional relationship should have prevented Redford from playing any part in the decision about who should win the potentially lucrative contract. They point to a memo obtained through a Freedom of Information where Redford weighed the options and described International Tobacco Recovery Lawyers as “the best choice for Alberta.”

Redford has denied any wrongdoing and said in the legislature she did not make the decision since she was not in cabinet when the final deal was signed. The premier faces a mandatory leadership review by Progressive Conservative party members on Nov. 23. Wilkinson’s five-year term is set to expire on Nov. 18. However, legislation allows him to continue in the office for up to six months before he is replaced or reappointed. [Emphasis added]

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