Alberta ethics commissioner asked to probe accusations over power deal

Alberta’s ethics commissioner is being asked to investigate allegations being made by the head of Calgary-owned Enmax about secret deals between the province and power companies.

Alberta Ethics Commissioner Neil Wilkinson

CALGARY — Alberta’s ethics commissioner is being asked to investigate allegations being made by the head of Calgary-owned Enmax about secret deals between the province and power companies.

Last month the province approved Bill 50, which allows planning to begin on billions of dollars of upgrades to Alberta’s power grid without the scrutiny of outside regulators.

Enmax CEO Gary Holden is accusing decision makers of making secret deals behind closed doors with those who support Bill 50.

Both Liberal Leader David Swann and Wildrose Alliance Leader Danielle Smith say they want a probe into the matter.

Premier Ed Stelmach bluntly responded to the accusations Wednesday by calling them “a bunch of crap.”

Energy Minister Mel Knight also denies any special deals were made while admitting he doesn’t know all the details about who the Alberta Electric System Operator has met with.

“The idea that there was some sort of private divvying up of things is wrong,” said Knight, adding that plans to upgrade the province’s aging electrical infrastructure have been on the books for five years.

“There was no carving up of the province — that’s a bunch of baloney.”

Smith, however, suggested all planning for transmission upgrades should be halted until Ethics Commissioner Neil Wilkinson can investigate Holden’s accusations.

Holden has said the province is over-building and that power companies will be getting the green light to build power lines Albertans don’t need.

“When you take meetings behind closed doors where large infrastructure is discussed, the idea of doing that without all the checks and balances, without the questions being asked, without the experts under oath, then you’re inevitably going to come up with a solution that is biased towards those that wish to build these projects,” Holden said.

Smith said an investigation is crucial.

“It’s not often you have a company boss come forward with allegations like this,” she said, adding that if the premier is not comfortable with the ethics commissioner looking into it, any independent body would be fine.

“I think if it turns out there was some impropriety, the premier would do the right thing.”

Enmax has opposed Bill 50, saying it does not provide for enough public consultation and transparency.

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