Redford defies privacy ruling on payout
EDMONTON — Alberta’s opposition says Premier Alison Redford’s stonewalling over how much severance was paid to former chief-of-staff Stephen Carter raises questions about whether Carter was lavishly rewarded with public money for services rendered privately to Redford and her PC party.
“She owes (Carter) big time,” said NDP Leader Brian Mason, reacting Thursday to news that bureaucrats in Redford’s office have chosen to defy a ruling from Alberta’s privacy commissioner that there is no valid reason to withhold the severance amount.
Mason noted that Carter is not just a former chief-of-staff to Redford.
He also engineered her miracle come-from-behind win at the PC leadership contest in 2011 and helped plot election strategy for her Progressive Conservative Party’s election win in 2012.
“One of the questions that needs to be asked is if (Carter) was inappropriately rewarded with public money,” said Mason.
After managing Redford’s successful leadership in the fall of 2011, Carter served in the government role as her chief-of-staff for about six months before stepping down to assist the Tory party in the spring election campaign.
Wildrose Leader Danielle Smith questioned why someone who stepped down voluntarily would get a severance to begin with, and said the timing of the payout was also suspect.
“Why would somebody who left a position voluntarily before the election be paid a severance after the election? It’s a pretty uncomfortable question,” said Smith.
“Is this (severance) a win-bonus for winning the (election) campaign? That’s the question,” said Smith.
Carter, who is no longer employed by the province, did not return calls Thursday.
Redford, asked about the issue in Medicine Hat, said she is not involved in decisions on what is released under freedom of information rules.
She said those rules are in place to prevent political meddling.
“There’s a process in place that we don’t have anything to do with,” said Redford.
“It’s not for me to step in to release a document or to not release a document. I actually don’t have a role in the process.”
When asked about suggestions of party payoffs with public funds she said: “I’m not at all surprised that that’s what the opposition would say.
“That’s the sort of thing the opposition says when they think they can make political hay out of something.”
The commissioner made the ruling on an application by Global TV for the severance figure under freedom of information rules.
Global has been trying for over a year to get the information through the premier’s office or through freedom of information legislation.
In the ruling, the privacy office dismissed arguments from Redford’s office that releasing the figure would harm Carter’s business interests or be used by others to publicly discredit him.
“The disclosure of this record will not tarnish (Carter’s) reputation or unfairly expose him to harm,” read the ruling.
The commissioner also didn’t accept the argument that releasing the information would make it difficult for the premier’s office to attract quality applicants in the future.
The fall sitting of the legislature begins Oct. 28. Mason and Smith said in the meantime they’ll look for other ways to force the information out into the public.
“There may be grounds for a contempt of the legislature ruling,” said Mason.