Former Livingstone-Macleod MLA Evan Berger.
Credits: QMI AGENCY/SCOUTS CANADA
CALGARY – Saying the hiring of a former MLA is OK because he's part of "the government family" should earn the ethics commissioner a strong rebuke from the premier, an opposition critic charged Thursday.
In an interview with Calgary Sun columnist Rick Bell, ethics commissioner Neil Wilkinson said the hiring of former MLA Evan Berger — who lost his Livingstone-MacLeod seat in the last provincial election — as a $120,000-a-year advisor to the agriculture ministry Berger headed when in office was above board because "he's within the family, the government family."
That type of talk should be strongly condemned by Premier Alison Redford, said Wildrose MLA and justice critic Shayne Saskiw.
"The premier should be intervening on this because anyone with an ethical gene in their body should know this doesn't pass the smell test," Saskiw said of Wilkinson's comments.
"If she's promising a fresh, new government, she has to review everyone in senior positions, and probably replace them."
Normally there is a one year cooling-off period before former cabinet officials can accept contracts from departments they had significant dealings with.
Along with his recent comments, the fact Wilkinson donated to Jim Dinning and former premier Ed Stelmach in the 2006 leadership race, and backed Dave Hancock in the subsequent leadership campaign won by Redford, shows he is too close to the Conservative Party to serve impartially as ethics commissioner, said Saskiw.
"The problem here is we don't have anyone who is independent or non-partisan because this PC government sets up a system where you basically have to be their lapdog," he said. "This guy is clearly an insider.
"He considers himself and (Conservative) MLAs to be insiders who are family.
"He is obviously not committed to upholding the separation between government and political parties, which is fundamental to parliament democracy, and he seems to believe as long as you're family you can do no wrong, so what else is he turning a blind eye to?"
Redford was not available for comment Thursday.
On Twitter: @SUNDaveDormer