Ethics probe finds no conflict of interest in oil and gas inquiry appointment
EDMONTON -- Justice Minister Doug Schweitzer was not in a conflict of interest when he appointed Steve Allan, a donor, as the head of Alberta's oil and gas inquiry, the province's ethics commissioner says in a new report.
In her report, Marguerite Trussler found that despite Allan making several "modest" political donations to Schweitzer, with the largest being $1,250, the two were not "social friends" prior to the appointment.
When the UCP began assembling the Canadian Energy Centre, which would investigate "foreign money supporting opposition to the Alberta oil and gas industry," Allan came to mind as he had been pressing the minister for action on flood mitigation and economic development in Calgary, Trussler wrote.
"Steve Allan met all the requirements for the position," she said, pointing to his experience as a forensic accountant and his position as chair of Calgary Economic Development.
Trussler found that Schweitzer, his family and any direct associates had nothing to gain from Allan's appointment.
"Just because Mr. Allan made political donations to Minister Schweitzer in the past does not make the subsequent appointment of Mr. Allan as inquiry commissioner a private interest for the Minister," she wrote. "I find that Minister Schweitzer did not breach the Conflicts of Interest Act in relation to his participation in the decision to appoint Steve Allan as public inquiry commissioner."
The Opposition NDP had also called for an ethics probe after it was revealed that Allan hired Calgary law firm Dentons — where his son was a partner until earlier this year — on a $900,000 contract for legal advice.
The commissioner declined, stating it was not under her jurisdiction to investigate Allan.
Trussler reiterated that in her report, but said "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."
Trussler noted that the law firm gave Allan free office space and that not only his son, but his close friend were both partners at the firm at the time.
The province recently announced it would add another $1 million to the oil and gas inquiry's $2.5-million budget to continue its investigation into foreign money possibly influencing anti-oil protests.
The government extended the deadline for the report from July 2 to Oct. 30 of this year.