While there are “unanswered questions,” Alberta’s ethics commissioner has ruled there isn’t enough evidence to prove Education Minister Adriana Lagrange broke the Conflicts of Interest Act after a company co-founded by a United Conservative Party donor was awarded a key government contract.
An investigation was launched in January, after a Red Deer-based manufacturer, IFR Workwear, received a contract in the summer of 2020 to produce 150,000 masks, to be provided to schools the following fall.
Reg Radford, the company’s co-founder, donated $2,000 to LaGrange’s election campaign ahead of the 2019 provincial election.
Ethics Commissioner Marguerite Trussler writes in her report: “There is no doubt that the Minister’s office had some involvement with that process. As a result of the lack of memory of several key people, even though there are grounds for suspicion, it is not possible to find, on a balance of probabilities, that Minister LaGrange interfered with the process to the extent required by the test set out in this report to make a finding that she improperly furthered the private interest of IFR Workwear Inc. and its owners.”
Trussler said for LaGrange to have breached the act, she would have to find LaGrange “directed the purchase” of IFR masks.
“She denied doing so. I would have to draw an inference from the rest of the evidence that she did. There is insufficient evidence from which to draw such an inference,” she said.
Nicole Sparrow, LaGrange’s press secretary, said the education minister’s office is “pleased to see her findings confirm no ethics rules were broken in the procurement of masks for children in schools.”
“We thank the commissioner for her diligence in compiling this report and we accept its findings,” Sparrow said.
“As always, our number one priority remains the wellbeing of our students, and Alberta’s government remains committed to supporting students and staff throughout the entire pandemic.”
To read the 29-page report, visit ethicscommissioner.ab.ca.