Alberta's NDP government has launched an external review into the investigation that cleared former premier Alison Redford of conflict-of-interest allegations.
The government on Monday said it hired Frank Iacobucci, a former Supreme Court of Canada judge, to examine the Alberta Ethics Commissioner's 2013 probe into whether Ms. Redford improperly awarded a legal contract to a law firm where her former husband works. At the time, the Progressive Conservatives hired the lawyers to represent the province in a lawsuit against tobacco companies.
"Over the course of the last few days, concerns have emerged that [former Ethics] Commissioner [Neil] Wilkinson may not have had available to him all the information that was relevant to his inquiry," Kathleen Ganley, Alberta's Minister of Justice and Solicitor-General, wrote in a mandate letter to Mr. Iacobucci.
She asked the former judge to review documents involved in the initial investigation and "other documents that may be potentially relevant" to his examination. "Officials have been directed to speak freely with you about this matter," her letter said.
Ms. Ganley told reporters "there was no one specific document" that prompted the government's decision to revisit the ethics investigation. The CBC, however, has reported it obtained internal Alberta Justice documents showing the committee involved in selecting lawyers for the multibillion-dollar tobacco lawsuit had, at one point, knocked out the so-called Tobacco Recovery Lawyers consortium from the competition. The consortium is led by Calgary's Jensen Shawa Solomon Duguid Hawkes LLP, where Ms. Redford's ex-husband is a partner.
The CBC has reported, citing briefing notes, that the group remained in the running after one of Ms. Redford's staff received the committee's recommendations in late 2010. Ms. Redford, who was the justice minister at the time, later selected the Tobacco Recovery Lawyers group. There is no indication Ms. Redford saw the original briefing note, according to the CBC.
Ms. Redford, who resigned as premier in 2014 after a spending scandal, said she would participate in Mr. Iacobucci's review.
"I welcome any independent review to confirm the appropriateness of the Ethics Commissioner's report. I always have, and always will, fully co-operate with any review of matters related to this topic," she said in a statement Monday. "I am happy to answer any questions that he may have."
Robert Hawkes, Ms. Redford's ex-husband, on Monday said: "Personally, I welcome an independent investigation into any allegations, but as a firm we are unable to provide any substantive comment because the government of Alberta is our client."
The New Democrats want the review wrapped up by Feb. 29, 2016. Jason Nixon, the Wildrose Party's democracy and accountability shadow minister, said the examination should be allowed to take as long as necessary.
"As Albertans, we need to understand so we can trust the bureaucracy that is running this province," he told reporters.
Mr. Iacobucci's review will not necessarily overturn the original decision to clear Ms. Redford. "It will touch on matters having to do with the decision, but the thing that is specifically under review is whether or not that investigation was conducted appropriately," Ms. Ganley said.
With a report from Gary Mason