Premier Alison Redford angry, indignant opposition and accusations of conflict of interest, provided that the ingredients for emotional day at the Alberta legislative environment. Hostility reached its peak in the question period, when Wildrose and NDP leaders accuse Redford political patronage over the awarding of a lucrative contract with the law firm that employs her former husband.
“This raises troubling questions of conflict of interest, perceived conflict of interest, the manipulation of the process, and at least a terrible decision”, Wildrose Leader Danielle Smith said the blast was followed by an exchange between Redford and Wildrose critic Rob Anderson, who suggested that he may file complaint to the Law Society of Alberta on Redford. “Web is never ending, is not it?” He said, noting that the elected president of the society is the senior partner in the same firm in question.
Furious Redford returned fire at Anderson that he was maligning the entire legal community. Looking Wildrose meetings, she decided to make good on his threat. “It is absurd to get,” she said to loud applause from his collection. “If this man (Anderson), which theoretically should be aware that the laws of society, is now prepared to discredit the profession, I have no idea where this debate should go. But I tell you, if this honorable member decides to file a complaint, go ahead.”
The company in question, Calgary-based Jensen Shawa Solomon, Duguid and Hawkes, is part of a consortium known as the Tobacco Recovery LLP lawyers representing the province in the $ 10-billion lawsuit against the tobacco industry. Robert Hawkes, one of the named partners, was married to Redford for five years while they were both in their 20’s. The two remained friends and Hawkes Redford led transition team after she was elected leader of the PC.
The government insisted earlier this year that the tobacco lawyer’s recovery LLP has been selected on a competitive basis of the rate in December 2010, when Redford was still Minister of Justice. The Review Committee was appointed to consider the three candidates. However, an internal memo obtained by CBC and the government indicates Wildrose Redford was involved in the selection. December 14 notes of Redford Deputy Attorney Ray Bodnarek, said: “I note that the Review Committee believes that all three firms interviewed to be able to adequately litigation and believes that while the consortium was above others, all three have unique strengths and weaknesses.
“Given the perceived conflict of interest, real conflicts of interest, the structure and the importance of contingency in court of’made plan Alberta, the best choice for Alberta International Lawyers will recover tobacco.” Opposition said memo shows Redford acted improperly by choosing a firm whose partners include close personal and political friend. They said that was the right thing to do would be to remove it from any role in the decision.
However, Deputy Prime Minister Thomas Lukaszuk and current Justice Minister Jonathan Denis stood up for Redford. While Redford decided which of the three firms the government should negotiate with the first, she did not make the last call, Dennis said. He said that after the memo Redford, the province hired a private firm to enter into a contract with the Tobacco Recovery Lawyers LLP, a process that took six months. When the contract was signed at the end, in June 2011, the Minister of Justice at the time was Verlyn Olson, as Redford resigned to run for the party leadership PC.
Thus, the final decision was made by Olson, Dennis said. “I am not aware of any conflict of interest. I do not understand how members of the cabinet or the prime can benefit from this,” he said. “The former spouse of a person not listed as a conflict of interest.” Glenn Solomon, a senior partner in a successful company, confirmed the dates Dennis. He said he was not contracted or promised before negotiations were concluded during the stay Olson.
“What we were told in no uncertain terms, was that the government is going to enter into negotiations with us to see if we could come to an agreement. If this fails, they will turn to other parties,” he said. “At the time, the deal was done … Alison Redford had no input on that. She was not in the picture.” One of the other contenders was the national firm Bennett Jones, who leads a lawsuit against big tobacco to six other Canadian provinces. But Denis said Albert decided to go with a separate view in particular to avoid legal conflicts of interest in the case.
However, as the NDP leader Brian Mason said, Hawkes could withstand a financial benefit. Although it is expected to take years to resolve, massive action can be very profitable for the government, and his lawyers who conduct business on contingency-fee basis. This means that the law firms involved taking on all the costs up front, but is expected to receive a percentage of any settlement or judgment, which can amount to hundreds of millions of dollars.
The Wildrose, who plans to file a complaint with the provincial commissioner of ethics used by all nine sets of issues assigned to them on Wednesday to ask about the role of Redford in the hiring decision. This has led to countless cries through the passage and the duel of order, forcing Speaker Gene Zwozdesky, to insert a few times to demand decency. Fight also broke out in social media, as Dennis and his spokesman sparred with Wildrose members and CBC reporter.
Duane Bratt, a political scientist Mount Royal University, said that the opposition and the media controversy blew out of proportion. “Not every conflict is a serious question, and we should be able to separate what is a fact of doing business here and what is ethically wrong,” he said. He said that the opposition is likely to cry foul no matter which of the three companies were chosen because they all have personal connections to the PC and donated money to the party. In the case of Bennett-Jones, the firm is a regular contributor to the PC, and has been presented over the years, former Prime Minister Peter laughed. More recently, one of the senior advisers of the company, Jack Major, was appointed to review MLA pay.
My brother said that the prevalence of such linkages between large law firms and the PC is a reality of the same government in power for four decades. “I think if you go through almost every law firm, to find a connection with each side here,” said Denis. “There are binders full of lawyers all around the province.”