Gary Mar, who faced Redford during the Progressive Conservative Party Leadership campaign an lost in the third ballot, was handpicked by Redford as the Alberta envoy to Asia in Hong Kong. He was investigated after auctioning off a trip to his Hong Kong government office at a personal fundraiser earlier this year organized to help him pay off PC leadership debts. The trip reportedly fetched $20,000.
Alison Redford suspended Mar without pay and ordered and ethics investigation. She referred the investigation to the Deputy Minister of Executive Council, Peter Watson, who is responsible for administering the Code of Conduct and Ethics for the Public Service which applies to senior officials in the Government of Alberta. He apparently hired an independent investigator and legal advice.
When queried about the report, during the election campaign, Redford said she was not aware of any report. Then just a few days after the election, on a Friday, the report is released, with the following findings:
- The wording of the invitation was changed when concerns were raised to make it clear that the dinner was a private affair
- Mr. Mar was not involved in the direct solicitation of funds from the dinner
- The funds raised from the dinner did not relate to the discharge of Mr. Mar's duties in public office;
- None of the funds raised from the dinner would be paid to Mr. Mar
- No information was conveyed to attendees that was not freely available to the public
- No special access was provided to or expected by the winner of a trip to Hong Kong auctioned at the dinner
Obviously Alison Redford wanted to avoid any controversy and criticism during the election. The Wildrose Party was quick to respond. Wildrose Party leader Danielle Smith commented on the report and said that the transaction involving Mr. Mar does not pass the smell test.
“Regardless of the report, this transaction involving Mr. Mar doesn’t pass the smell test,” Wildrose Leader Danielle Smith said. “Ms. Redford should force Mr. Mar to repay the $20,000 as a condition of remaining on the job.” Source Wildrose Party
Wildrose MLA Rob Anderson criticized Redford for fumbling the Mar file from the start by keeping the report behind closed doors and by handing out a patronage posting in the first place.
“Redford is building a reputation of wanting to keep the public in the dark, whether it’s her time as Justice Minister creating laws that shroud illegal donation investigations into secrecy, or punting important issues until after the election,” Anderson said. “It’s time to hold an open and transparent competitive process for international offices instead of continuing on with the PC pattern of giving plum patronage postings to party officials.”
If it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck, in all likelihood it's a duck.