Alison Redford and her part in Tobaccogate being investigated again

By , Calgary Sun

First posted: | Updated:

The Toryland dynasty is dead but its memory lives on — in another probe of a former PC premier.

Yes, Alison Redford is back in the news. Toryland is once again under the magnifying glass.

Let us be clear. No one has been found guilty of anything but another investigation of alleged wrongdoing begins.

For all of us, it is a flashback to the latter days of PC rule, such as it was. Yes, those not-so-glorious days when almost every week turned up a story with a smell.

It’s Thursday afternoon when we get our hands on a letter from Paul Fraser, B.C.’s Conflict of Interest Commissioner.

Fraser’s job was to decide whether he should take a thorough look into Redford and how a group including her ex-hubby’s law firm got to be representing the provincial government in its $10 billion lawsuit against tobacco companies.

Fraser says what has come to be known as Tobaccogate should be given another once-over because of new info revealed after Alberta’s ethics boss Neil Wilkinson cleared Redford in 2013.

Just so you know, Wilkinson, formerly the Tory-appointed chair of the Capital Health Authority, once said the PC government was a “family” in defending the Tories quickly hiring back a defeated cabinet minister.

This story is about Redford as justice minister awarding a group of lawyers the contract to get tobacco companies to cough up $10 billion to the provincial government for health care costs.

If the lawyers win the court case, the cut of the action for the legal beagles could be in the hundreds of millions.

As we now know, one of the groups wanting the work included a Calgary law firm where Redford’s ex-hubby Robert Hawkes was a partner.

Redford and Hawkes were still politically close.

When Redford became premier Hawkes led her transition team.

Well, it was the job of bigshot provincial government lawyers to recommend which lucky group got to represent the province in the pricey lawsuit.

But the committee of lawyers came up with two versions of what they recommended.

In the first version, the group including the firm of Redford’s ex-hubby came last out of three outfits because of “their lack of depth.”

The committee recommended Redford choose between one of the other two groups.

But after this note was sent to Redford’s executive assistant Jeff Henwood the committee cooked up another version.

The group including Redford’s ex-hubby and his law firm was back in the game and nothing was mentioned about them being ranked last.

Instead, each group had “unique strengths and weaknesses” and deciding among the three was up to Redford.

Other paperwork shows government bigwigs did not consider all three groups equal.

Redford chose the group led by her ex-hubby’s firm.

Earlier this year, in a $160,000 probe, retired Supreme Court justice Frank Iacobucci found it “abundantly clear” Wilkinson hadn’t eyeballed all relevant evidence, including the first version of the briefing note and government emails.

The justice found no evidence Redford saw the first version of the briefing note.

Iacobucci’s report made its way to Fraser. Now we have a re-investigation.

Wildrose leader Brian Jean says this isn’t the end of Toryland being in the news.

“There are going to be skeletons falling out of the closets for a long time,” he says, adding it will remind Albertans of why they voted the PCs out.

Jean speaks of the former government’s “trail of deceit and inexcusable behaviour and cronyism.”

The Wildrose leader says it is important to get to the bottom of things.

The Notley NDP don’t have the same feeling. They don’t want to tear down the PCs. They want the PCs fighting it out with Wildrose.

Still, Jean does not believe this news of another look-see of Redford has the same impact it would have had a couple of years ago.

“Today Albertans know the PCs are dead. Everybody knows they’re dead,” says Jean.

“So this is just one more pile-on.”

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