Alberta Premier Alison Redford under fire over alleged conflict of interest

remier Alison Redford speaks outside her office at the Alberta Legislature in Edmonton, AB



EDMONTON -- Sparks continued to fly at the legislature Thursday as opposition parties called for Alberta's premier to step aside from her job after allegations she gave a lucrative litigation contract to her ex-husband's law firm.

Premier Alison Redford continues to say she is not in a conflict of interest, insisting she was truthful during question period and again while responding to questions from reporters Thursday.

Redford insists the decision was made by then Justice Minister Verlyn Olson.

But opposition parties say that's not the case.

They called her a liar in the wake of "mountains of evidence" to the contrary and asking her to step down from her duties as premier.

"You can't call someone a liar in the house, but it's clear that the premier lied about her involvement in this case and it's clear that the government is in full damage control," NDP Leader Brian Mason said.

"The evidence is clear, she should step aside from the premier's job until this matter can be investigated."

Internal documents released by the Wildrose Party showed Redford -- when she was justice minister -- recommended a $10 billion contract be awarded to the International Tobacco Recovery Lawyers, of which her ex-husband Robert Hawkes is a partner.

Media reports also indicate Hawkes's firm made massive donations to the PC party after being awarded the litigation contract.

Multiple memos and documents indicate the ITRL was chosen by Redford before she resigned to run for the Progressive Conservative leadership on Feb. 16, 2011.

A memo dated Jan. 13, 2011 to senior PC members from Assistant Deputy Minister Grant Sprague reads "Shortly before Christmas, Minister Redford selected the International Tobacco Recovery Lawyers."

"The premier is entitled to defend herself, she is not entitled to her own version of the facts," Wildrose Leader Danielle Smith said.

"What she has done is intentionally mislead Albertans. Her defence is weak and feeble and wrong...She must answer for it and she must answer honestly and immediately."

The Wildrose Party has made an official complaint to Alberta's ethics commissioner and in the legislature, Wildrose House Leader Rob Anderson raised a point of privilege that will be ruled on by Speaker Gene Zwozdesky early next week.

A planned media availability with Redford scheduled for 3 p.m. Thursday was cancelled mere minutes before she was set to take questions from the media -- a move that was also chided by Tory critics.

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