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Former Lougheed-era attorney general Jim Foster suggests criminal probe into Smith ethics breach

United Conservative Party Leader Danielle Smith speaks following the debate in Edmonton on Thursday, May 18, 2023. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson) United Conservative Party Leader Danielle Smith speaks following the debate in Edmonton on Thursday, May 18, 2023. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson)
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A former Alberta attorney general under Progressive Conservative premier Peter Lougheed is condemning Danielle Smith over her violation of Alberta's Conflict of Interest Act.

Jim Foster served in the Alberta Legislature from 1971 to 1979, during which time he was minister of advanced education (1971 to 1975), minister of justice and attorney general (1975 to 1979).

In 1991, Foster was appointed to the Alberta Court of King’s Bench based in Red Deer, serving until 2012.

He argues that, in addition to violating the conflict-of-interest rule, Smith may also have broken the law by attempting to pressure the attorney general over the prosecution of Artur Pawlowski. 

"When I read the ethics commissioner report, it was concerning," he said in an interview with CTV News.

"It disclosed, in detail, the communication between the premier and the then-attorney general (Tyler) Shandro, which was completely inappropriate, and (Marguerite Trussler's report) finds that a violation of the ethics legislation.

"(Trussler) is required to consider ethics legislation, that's one perspective, but when you consider criminal legislation – or a criminal lens, if you will, to that report – then there's reason to believe that the premier may have committed a criminal offence in her communications with Shandro. It is that serious, and I suggest that the authorities should consider conducting an investigation because of that."

Foster also says that, given the seriousness and the "criminal overtones" of that communication, Shandro should have resigned at the time.

He says an independent investigation should be considered.

In response, the UCP submitted the following statement:

“The UCP is endorsed by prominent and respected Conservatives like Stephen Harper, Rona Ambrose and hundreds of thousands of Albertans who support cutting taxes and building a stronger, safer and more prosperous province. The NDP has nothing positive to say, and continues to run from its record of failure and economic destruction.”

FOSTER ENDORSES NDP

On Tuesday, Foster endorsed Alberta NDP Leader Rachel Notley and Red Deer-South candidate Michelle Baer. 

"As a long-time conservative who sat in a caucus and cabinet led by Peter Lougheed, I am happy to be casting my vote for the Alberta NDP for the first time," he said in a news release.

"Rachel Notley and Michelle Baer are people of integrity who will serve Albertans and the community of Red Deer. I, like many Albertans, am concerned with what I see from Danielle Smith and the UCP and know that the best way to build a better future for Alberta is to elect Rachel Notley as premier."

"I am honoured and humbled to have the support of Jim Foster, who served our province so skillfully and ably as MLA, minister under premier Peter Lougheed, and judge on the Court of King’s Bench," Notley said.

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