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

Alberta children whose only symptom of COVID-19 is a runny nose or a sore throat will no longer require mandatory isolation, starting Monday.
477 new COVID-19 cases confirmed in Alberta on Thursday

Changes being made to the COVID-19 symptom list for school-age children

Alisha Bryan holds a handful of poppy sticks at the poppy laying ceremony on Oct. 28. (Alannah Page/Lacombe Express)
Remembrance Day will look a little different this year for Lacombe

The Lacombe Legion is taking COVID-19 precautions for people who want to pay their respects.

Chad Carlson (left) Jarita Carlson and their two children Milo Carlson (left) and Lennon Carlson are dressing up as Ghostbusters for Halloween. (Alannah Page/Lacombe Express)
Lacombe family passionate about Halloween and giving back to their community

COVID-19 has changed how the Carlson’s will celebrate Halloween this year

The Lacombe Legion volunteers laid poppies beside the graves of veterans on Oct. 28. (Alannah Page/Lacombe Express)
Lacombe Legion volunteers lay poppies for fallen veterans

Twenty volunteers showed up on Wednesday to pay their respects and help out

There were 410 COVID-19 cases recorded in Alberta Wednesday. (File photo by The Associated Press)
Alberta records 410 new COVID-19 cases Wednesday

Central zone dropped to 160 active cases

Royal Alexandra Hospital front-line workers walk a picket line after walking off the job in a wildcat strike in Edmonton, on Monday, October 26, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Alberta labour board orders health-care staff who walked off the job to go back to work

Finance Minister Travis Toews said in a news release that he was pleased with the labour board’s decision

Pilots Ilona Carter and Jim Gray of iRecover Treatment Centres, in front of his company’s aircraft, based at Ponoka’s airport. (Perry Wilson/Submitted)
95-year-old Ilona Carter flies again

Takes to the skies over Ponoka

Children’s backpacks and shoes are seen at a daycare in Langley, B.C., on Tuesday May 29, 2018. Alberta Children’s Services Minister Rebecca Schulz says the province plans to bring in a new way of licensing and monitoring child-care facilities. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Alberta proposes legislation to change rules on child-care spaces

Record-keeping, traditionally done on paper, would be allowed digitally

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau shakes hands with US Vice-President Joe Biden on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Friday, December 9, 2016. THE CANADIAN PRESS/ Patrick Doyle
A Biden presidency could mean good news for Canadian environment policy: observers

Experts and observers say even a U.S. outside the Paris agreement may ultimately end up in the same place

People take a photo together during the opening night of Christmas Lights Across Canada, in Ottawa, on Wednesday, Dec. 4, 2019. The likelihood that most Canadians will enjoy a holly jolly Christmas season of gatherings, caroling and travel is unlikely, say public health experts who encourage those who revel in holiday traditions to accept more sacrifices ahead. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang
Ho, ho, no: Experts advise preparing for a scaled-back COVID holiday season

Many of the holiday season’s highlights have already been scrapped or are unlikely to take place

Sen. Kim Pate is shown in Toronto in an October 15, 2013, file photo. The parliamentary budget office says a proposed law that would give judges discretion on whether to apply a lesser sentence for murder could save the federal government $8.3 million per year. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Colin Perkel
Judicial discretion for mandatory minimum sentences for murder would save $8.3M: PBO

The result would be fewer people in long-term custody at federal correctional institutions, experts say

Husky Energy logo is shown at the company’s annual meeting in Calgary on May 5, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Husky pipeline spills 900,000 litres of produced water in northwestern Alberta

The energy regulator says environmental contractors are at the site

A raccoon paid a visit to a Toronto Tim Hortons on Oct. 22, 2020. (shecallsmedrew/Twitter)
Who are you calling a trash panda? Raccoon takes a shift at Toronto Tim Hortons

Tim Hortons said animal control was called as soon they saw the surprise visitor

Most Read