Alberta justice minister cleared in ethics case tied to oil funding inquiry

“They were simply acquaintances in Calgary who occasionally communicated”

EDMONTON — Alberta’s ethics commissioner says Justice Minister Doug Schweitzer did not break the rules when he hired Steve Allan to run a public inquiry into whether foreign money is bankrolling anti-oil protests in Canada.

Marguerite Trussler, in a report issued Monday, said Allan was on balance a good choice in a small pool of qualified candidates.

The commissioner also noted that while Allan and Schweitzer knew each other in passing and Allan had contributed to Schweitzer’s political campaigns, he gave money to other parties as well.

“They were simply acquaintances in Calgary who occasionally communicated about issues such as economic strategy and flood mitigation,” said Trussler in the report, adding that Allan had seen his home destroyed in the 2013 Calgary flood.

“They were not friends and their relationship was not close.”

Trussler said the roster of quality candidates with forensic accounting experience who were able to work within the inquiry’s then-$2.5-million budget was limited.

Schweitzer’s spokesman, Jonah Mozeson, said in a statement Monday, “I’m glad the ethics commissioner confirmed what we always knew was true: no conflict.

“It’s unfortunate that some choose to ignore facts to tar their political opponents.”

Trussler launched the investigation after a complaint was laid late last year by a third party, Democracy Watch.

The complaint centred around Schweitzer’s role in hiring Allan, who had an office in Schweitzer’s former Calgary law firm, Dentons.

Allan was hired in July 2019 to head up the public inquiry to fulfil an election promise of Premier Jason Kenney, who has said he believes foreign funders are pulling the strings on domestic protesters to undermine Alberta’s oil and gas industry.

Trussler noted that Schweitzer was put in charge of recruiting because public inquiries fall under his mandate as justice minister.

She said Allan had helped out on a fundraiser for Schweitzer’s failed bid for the leadership of the United Conservatives, which was won by Kenney in 2017.

Schweitzer, a one-time partner at Dentons, severed all connection to the firm after being named justice minister in April 2019.

Trussler said her mandate was not to investigate Allan, but she questioned his decision to hire Dentons to do legal work for the inquiry because Allan has a close friend who worked there. Allan’s son is a Dentons partner and the law firm gave Allan free office space after his home was destroyed.

“It does stretch credibility that Mr. Allan did not consider whether or not there may possibly be a conflict of interest in his engaging of Dentons as counsel for the inquiry,” wrote Trussler.

Allan could not be immediately reached for comment.

Allan’s report was due this week, but was extended by the government until Oct. 30. Also, an extra $1 million was added to the inquiry’s $2.5-million budget.

The inquiry has been the focus of critics, who say it is not fact finding but out to prove a pre-determined conclusion and, in doing so, is harming the reputations of people who legitimately and lawfully question the expansion of oil and gas operations.

Late last year, the environmental law firm Ecojustice launched legal action asking a court to strike down the inquiry, saying the process is politically motivated, prejudges conclusions and is outside provincial jurisdiction.

Coronavirusoil and gas

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Central zone down to 16 active COVID-19 cases

Alberta Health Services’ central zone is down to 16

Millet Agriplex to become a hub for indoor soccer

Wetaskiwin Soccer Club will be operating out of the Millet Agriplex this season.

Ermineskin Kindergarten has a confirmed case of COVID-19

The school has shut down and Cohort 2 is in self-isolation

Central zone down to 19 active COVID-19 cases on Thursday

Provincially, 158 new COVID-19 cases were identified

Wetaskiwin/ Camrose RCMP conduct a joint forces initiative with Camrose Police Service

The multifaceted joint forces initiative with on Sept. 23, 2020 proved very successful.

Alberta’s top health official says province is not in a second wave of COVID-19

Dr. Deena Hinshaw said Thursday that Alberta had identified 158 new cases in the province

First annual Best of Wetaskiwin Readers’ Choice Awards

Enter to win a $200 gift card for Canadian Tire.

8 charged, $260K in drugs and cash seized in massive Alberta drug bust

Eight people are facing 33 charges in what police have dubbed Project Incumbent

‘We’re losing what makes the Parkland so distinctive,” conservation specialist says

The Lacombe district will lose two sites with provincial park status: JJ Collett and the Narrows

Sylvan Lake woman says Town’s response time to concerns isn’t enough

Glenda Jackman says it took almost a month for the Town to act on her complaint about a playground

Hundreds die from opioid overdoses in Alberta as COVID-19 pandemic hit

Jason Luan said the province is not alone in seeing a rise in deaths,

Alberta politicians reject throne speech

Premier Kenney disapointed with lack of support for Alberta energy

Most Read