Wildrose MLAs stage walk out during dramatic tobacco conflict.

Question Period at Alberta's Legislative Assembly
Another hour of Question Period in Alberta’s Legislative Assembly. Another circus event for political watchers.

Theatric and dramatic antics dominated this afternoon’s hour-long Question Period in Alberta’s Legislative Assembly.

To start the drama, the official opposition Wildrose Caucus raised a point of personal privilege claiming that Premier Alison Redford misled the Assembly by claiming she did not choose the law firm involved in a $10 billion lawsuit against the tobacco industry (the Premier’s ex-husband is a partner at a law firm awarded a government contract in the lawsuit).

Soon after raising the point of privilage, Assembly Speaker Gene Zwozdesky overruled and denied Danielle Smith and her Wildrose MLAs an opportunity to ask any questions related to the Premier’s alleged conflict of interest in the tobacco lawsuit. In response, most of the 17 MLA Wildrose caucus stormed out of the Assembly Chamber in protest (the dramatic effect was lessened when a number of Wildrose MLAs quickly returned to their seats in order to ask questions not related to the tobacco conflict claims).

In a bizarre twist, Speaker Zwozdesky held up a Government of Alberta press release as evidence that the Premier did not mislead the Assembly because the final decision to select the law firm was signed by her successor, then-Justice Minister and current Agriculture Minster Verlyn Olson. The Speaker then declared that it matters not whether the Premier selected the law firm, she did not mislead the Assembly because her successor signed the contract.

(I just had a Bill Clinton flashback).

Gary Bikman Shill
Wildrose MLA Gary Bikman’s handmade signage.

Taking full advantage of the attention of the Twittersphere and the Press Gallery, the Wildrose Party cried foul and complained that the ruling was an affront to democracy (Cardston-Taber-Warner MLA Gary Bikman wrote “SHILL” on the back of his notebook, leaving political watchers to suspect the message was directed at Speaker Zwozdesky). Tories claimed the rookie Wildrose MLAs simply did not understand the rules of Westminster-style parliamentary procedure.

Meanwhile, New Democrat leader Brian Mason escalated his party’s call for Premier Redford to step down (a demand which she is unlikely to acquiesce). Liberal leader Raj Sherman clumsily attempted to tie the Premier’s decision not to step down with the suspension of Gary Mar, Alberta’s envoy to Hong Kong, earlier this year. Premier Redford suspended Mr. Mar from his duties overseas after allegations that former Tory leadership candidate used his title to raise money to pay-off his political debts (he was reinstated after the election).

Since entering office, Premier Redford has tended to initially respond slowly to political crises confronting her party and respond decisively once the issue has become a political problem. Whether it be the infamous No-Meet Committee, the never ending MLA pay issues, the Allaudin Merali expense fiasco, the Tories default strategy appears to be to ignore the issue in hopes that it will disappear.

It has been five days since CBC investigative reporter Charles Rusnell first reported on the Premier’s alleged conflict of interest and the Tories are still stumbling through a public relations debacle that should have been easy to resolve.

Whether or not Premier Redford is in an actual conflict of interest, the Tories are doing a good job looking guilty and the opposition is only happy to help them on their way.

21 thoughts on “Wildrose MLAs stage walk out during dramatic tobacco conflict.”

  1. Only in Canada would a politician draw heat for allegedly doing something that might have benefitted an “EX” spouse…

    This “story” is proof positive Alberta’s manufacturing sector is alive and kicking…

  2. @Derrick Forsythe

    Never before in Alberta has a PC politician actually been given heat for factually deciding something that definitely will benefit an Ex spouse.

    Recognize Redford’s ex is a partner at the firm, which will receive hundreds of millions in fees and damages if the suit is won.

    This story is proof that an active opposition actually exists once again in Alberta, and that the government can no longer brush unethical actions under the rug.

  3. The point isn’t so much the awarding of the contract to the ex-husband firm: it is highly qualified and led by very, very bright people. The issue is
    1) that the Premier didn’t recuse herself
    2) She, and the entire PC Party which now sadly includes the “non-partisan” Speaker, lied about it after.

    It is a very, very shameful day for Alberta. I’m surprised Dave you aren’t outraged over it.

  4. Derrick: If Redford had simply claimed “Yes, I chose to give the contract to that firm, but that decision was fully justified and my personal connection to the issue is distant enough to be acceptable under the circumstances,” then she would be in a lot less trouble today.

    Instead, she chose to lie about whether she made the decision at all. Much like in Watergate, it’s not the initial “crime” that gets you — it’s the coverup.

  5. I’m not convinced that any conflict of interest existed, in that–as per the example admission offered by Mr. Hand–the personal connection may well have been slim enough as to be ignored. However, the false statement given in the Legislative Assembly is an affront to the office of the Premier, to the purpose of the Leg, and to the citizens of Alberta.

  6. More than one WRP MLA had those signs. I observed another MLA moving his around as well but did not see him holding it up as clearly as in the picture. Interestingly I first thought it was some sort of document they were all going to present because the two looked identical. Sad day.

  7. I think Albertans have all heard about the need for a pipeline to Kitimat, to sell our energy, Americas leaders have thumbed their noses at pipelines, and Alberta needs to sell energy, there are issues that need addressing, but this group of circus and rodeo clowns clog up the Leg with this street busker practice, embarrassing.

  8. Selecting and/or recommending something is not the same as closing the deal. You can buy a house, but you can’t move in until the paperwork is signed. You can get a loan at the bank, but you won’t get the money until the paperwork is signed. You can get a divorce, but it won’t be legal until the paperwork is signed. You can agree to hire a law firm, but they won’t be acting on your behalf until the paperwork is signed. Premier Redford was in charge of selecting a law firm for a particular job, but they weren’t hired until Verlyn Olson signed the paperwork. Why can’t people understand this concept?

  9. Mayday – people don’t understand the concept because the question is not who signed papers. The question is who made the decision that ginormous buckets of money will be given to a partnership of an individual who is a political friend and on the transition team of Ms. Redford. (I think the ex-husband stuff is irrelevant. Do we care about ex-boyfriends? Former platonic friends?)

    There is a plethora of material from CBC that strongly suggests the decision was made by Ms. Redford.

  10. CBC, a real Albertan does not watch the CBC. What part of Ontario are you from Plethora, or Toronto? You people came to Alberta for work, leave your Ontario politics at home, we don’t want Alberta looking like Ont/Que.

  11. It is incredible How outpf touch, ideological, ad extreme the Wildrose have become. Wait. They were always that way. Ad their leader? Unfit for office of any kind.

  12. The Wild Rose MLA for Cardston-Taber-Warner ought to abandon all pretense and simply show up in the Leg wearing his clown makeup and floppy shoes.

  13. This isn’t about an “ex-spouse”.. as obviously they divorced over a decade ago.. the fact is the “ex spouse” is in her current “inner circle” and was part of the transition team after the election. He was and is a part of her team, and as such this gives the appearance that she is enriching her friends and putting good governance to the sideline as she throws a friend a tax payer funded bone. Was it illegal, heck no, is it ethical, not at all.

    To the speaker of the house (aka Redfords lapdog) if you don’t think Redfords comments are a smoking gun for misleading the house (and/or lieing) then it begs the question as to what standard of proof would be required to convict. I mean, its her own words and memos that contradict herself.. its not like we have to play a hunch…. just saying….

  14. Hey David Harrigan. If you’re recommending a company to do a specific job, do you recommend the best one for the job? Between December 2011 and June 2012, this recommendation could have been changed or updated if anyone thought the company couldn’t handle the job. The Government spent the money seeking a firm to handle the deal, and probably believed that Ms Redford, being a lawyer and the Minister of Justice, was capable of suggesting a competent company. And a conflict of interest isn’t an issue because an ex-husband actually becomes “ex-husband” when the paper work is signed.

  15. I agree that Redford could have skated away with the selection of the firm. What is not ethical is that she lied about the selection. As someone said above- it is not the action it is the coverup.
    When ethics continue to walk the razor edge with this lot, it should be the job of the opposition to bring it up! That is what the opposition does! Yes they have tried to get to the bottom of questionable dealings such as this maybe conflict, the illegal donations, the questionable expense accounts, the nearly billion dollar trip to London . If they do not challenge the govt, who is supposed to?
    In the meantime they have presented over 94 amendments to bills in order to attempt to better them. That is also their job. Too bad the cameras were not on the behaviour of the PCs while such amendments were being presented. Bad and disrespectful behaviour. It is just the TV cameras were not there. Watch it on video of house

  16. Of course she made the decision. Look at the paper trail: Dec 22, 2010 email from the ADM Grant Sprague attaching rejection letters sent to the other 3 bidders and confirming his phone call to Carsten Jensen who he refers to as the “successful consortium”. Jan 6, 2011 email from Carsten Jensen saying he’s looking forward to working with the government on the case. Jan 22, 2011 email from ADM Grant Sprague saying that Redford had “selected” Jensen’s firm. If all this happened as a result of Redford’s non-decision on a $10 billion law suit that will yield $2 billion in fees then Redford’s denial is actually an admission that everyone in the Justice Department is utterly incompetent.

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