RICK BELL - STRAIGHT TALK: Redford remains blameless

Premier Alison Redford speaks to the press at the grand opening of the Kaye Edmonton Clinic in Edmonton, AB on Monday, December 3, 2012.



The surreal slugfest offers up more than enough bobbing and weaving and dopes to be roped.

Redford is off the hook - at least in the eyes of Gene Zwozdesky a.k.a. the Wizard of Zwoz, the legislature's Speaker and himself a Tory MLA.

The Wildrose accuses the premier of misleading the legislature.

Redford says she didn't make the decision to hire a group of lawyers for the province's $10 billion lawsuit against the tobacco companies.

The consortium of lawyers handling the lawsuit includes the firm where her ex-hubby and closest political advisor is a partner.

There is a paper trail, not volunteered by the government but obtained through a freedom of information action.

On the bits of paper, Redford as justice minister writes, though no one stood out in the competition, the choice will be the consortium including ex-hubby's firm.

The selection is confirmed in a justice department note.

The winning group is notified, as are the losers.

After Redford decides to run as Tory leader and has to step down as justice minister, her successor Verlyn Olson works out the details.

Simple question. Who do you believe picked the lawyers who stand to make a mint?

Monday, the Wizard of Zwoz works his magic. He says "much hinges on the interpretation of the decision to hire a firm."

He admits "this is getting into a case of semantics" but "there was no final decision" while Redford was the justice minister.

"The determination of whether the premier's statements were misleading is entirely subjective and depends greatly on the exact nature of the words used," says Zwoz.

Three members of Redford's inner circle, says the Speaker, "vehemently denied a decision had been made" by Redford.

The premier was "unequivocal" about not having made a decision.

A government press release states the obvious, final details of the deal with the lawyers were worked out and inked after Redford left to run for the premier's chair.

But who picked the winning bid?

Redford is in the clear, in more ways than one.

Prior to Zwoz's ruling, when the opposition try to ask the Tories questions on this lawsuit, they are shut down by the Speaker.

Anything smelling of tobacco is snuffed out.

Wildrose leader Danielle Smith calls Zwoz's ruling "shocking." Fellow Wildroser Rob Anderson says it is "intentional and done at the last minute to throw us off our game."

Wildrose MLAs exit the legislature chamber, except the ones posing puzzlers on other issues.

When asked about those who figure everyone should play nice, that is, roll over like all the patsies who played nice in the past and ended up political corpses, Anderson is unrepentant.

"Nice. What is this, Romper Room?" asks Anderson.

"Albertans elected us to do something about the culture of corruption so we're going to do something.

"If you don't want to be called on this stuff stop doing it.

"The evidence shows the premier made the decision. The majority of Albertans agree. If she continues in this fantasyland of her own creation and doesn't come clean, Albertans are going to pass judgment on her and it won't be pretty."

While we're at it, the main opposition party says before Redford was justice minister the successful law firm scores almost nothing from government, afterwards they receive $1.3 million and that's without the tobacco lawsuit.

The Wildrose push for an independent look-see over whether Redford is in a conflict of interest.

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