Knight fumbles on EUB stage

Knight fumbles on EUB stage by Graham Thomson, September 18, 2007, Edmonton Journal
Monday was supposed to be the day the Alberta government would demonstrate leadership on the EUB spying controversy that has plagued the government since news broke in June the Alberta Energy and Utilities Board hired a private investigator who had spied on landowners. For weeks, the government has been hinting it was about to take decisive action to recover the EUB’s reputation that has sunk so low you’d need a drilling rig to find it. Instead, we had a minister of energy doing his best to downplay the biggest scandal to hit the government since Ed Stelmach became premier. Helping Knight were two anemic reports into the EUB’s activities: one by the province’s privacy commissioner’s officer; the other by a retired judge. However, even though both were hampered by mandates which limited the scope of the investigations, the commissioner’s report concluded the EUB had broken privacy laws and former Justice Del Perras said “the idea of an approved EUB security personnel listening in to landowners’ phone conferences is repulsive.” … When reporters asked Knight how that would restore Albertans’ confidence in the board, he sounded impatient and defensive and maybe a little scattered. “Do you think that appointing a new chair of Alberta’s very, very long-standing and illustrious board, I might say they have been over many, many years from 1938, count them, 70 years’ worth, and I have gone out today and appointed a new chair,” he said. … “There is a process that will take place, Dr. Tilleman will investigate and will take the necessary action at the appropriate time.” Investigate? Reporters pounced on the word and asked Knight to explain. Knight immediately backtracked. ” … Confused reporters wondered what Tilleman’s mandate would be and whether he would fire anyone at the board. “There are absolutely no options forward at this point in time, nothing’s out of the question, and nothing to address that particular point has been done at this time,” said Knight. In other words, after promising “definitive action” on the EUB file, we still don’t know what will be done. Confused reporters quickly became frustrated reporters as they pushed Knight to explain who would be accepting responsibility for the EUB’s behaviour. Knight did acknowledge the “use of plainclothes security by the EUB was wrong and unnecessary” and said the board’s reputation had been damaged — but he refused to say who he thought was to blame.

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