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NDP calls for inquiry commissioner to step down
CALGARY — Alberta’s Official Opposition is calling for the head of a public inquiry into foreign influence on the energy industry’s reputation to step down.
Steve Allan, an accountant who is also the former head of the Calgary Economic Development, was appointed by Premier Jason Kenney to head the inquiry into whether or not special interest groups in other countries are trying to smear Alberta oilsands.
Allan paid Calgary law firm Dentons more than $900,000 for legal advice. Allan’s son Toby Allan is a partner in that firm.
“This is a direct relationship between the director of the inquiry and his son,” said NDP MLA Heather Sweet. “Under the Conflict of Interest Act, (he) needs to recuse (himself).”
The NDP says Allan didn’t shop around, offering a sole-source contract instead.
But the government officials with the Justice and Solicitor General office, who represent Allan in this matter, said family ties have nothing to do with the contract and Dentons has conducted work for several administrations, including the previous NDP regime.
They also said its officials ”are not aware of any conflict that would prohibit the Inquiry from contracting with Dentons.”
Toby Allan will not be involved with any of the work his firm is doing on behalf of the government, the UCP said.
But political scientist David Taras said even if there is no conflict of interest, there shouldn’t even be the appearance of one.
“This makes for bad politics,” he said. “You have to multi-source … there can’t be a hint of nepotism and here, I think there is a sense of lifted eyebrows, people asking what’s happening, so that’s not good news for the government.”
Friday afternoon, Dentons Communications Manager Neetisha Seenundun sent CTV a statement.
"Neither Dentons Canada LLP nor any of its partners was involved in the decision as to which law firm would be retained to do this work. The Commissioner's decision to retain our firm is consistent with our extensive experience in government advisory matters. Clients often hire firms based on trust and reputation. The Commisioner is one of many clients whose trust and confidence we have earned, having worked with the Commissioner on a myriad of matters over the last three decades.
"At Dentons, we have a rigourous client intake process and are committed to professional excellence. We are committed to the independence and integrity of this inquiry."