Interim PC leader Ric McIver taking ethics commissioner to court over conflict of interest findings

Ric McIver's lawyer says Alberta's ethics commissioner went "too far" after finding the interim Progressive Conservative leader in breach of conflict of interest rules.

Brendan Miller plans to fight against Marguerite Trussler's decision on behalf of his client at a judicial review that will take place in Calgary next year.

In her January report, Trussler recommended McIver pay a $500 fine and apologize after he asked the premier about the government's new electricity price cap during question period last November.

McIver's wife, Christine, is the sole shareholder of electricity retailer Brighter Futures Energy Inc.

"To find somebody to be in a conflict for asking a question in question period is unprecedented," said Miller.

Battle 'bigger than just about me': McIver

The decision to fight Trussler's findings came after McIver and the PC caucus analyzed the decision and were concerned about the precedent it set relating to the parliamentary privilege of free speech.

"This is a battle that's bigger than just about me," said McIver.

"This isn't about $500 and an apology, this is about the right of all elected members of every assembly in the British Commonwealth ... to be able to speak openly in the legislatures and the parliaments."

On Nov. 22, Premier Rachel Notley announced the province would cap consumer power rates at a maximum of 6.8 cents per kilowatt hour for four years, starting June 1, 2017.

Read McIver's comments below: 

"The premier seems unaware that today's low prices are the result of competition and that an artificial price cap will limit investment and, by extension, limit that competition.

"Combined with the carbon tax costs, this will surely make Alberta the worst place in Canada to generate power. To the premier: why are you doing everything in your power to run these companies, many of which are owned by taxpayers, out of business?"

McIver's application argues Trussler erred in law and departed from a reasonable standard when making her findings.

"[The report] infringes essentially on the rights of the electoral district of Calgary-Hays and its constituents in the fact that it prevents Mr. McIver from representing their interests," said Miller.

McIver's application for judicial review argues there was no decision to influence as the NDP had already announced it was capping consumer power rates. 

Hearing set for January 2018

McIver was found to have violated a section of the Conflicts of Interest Act that says politicians are not allowed to influence the Crown regarding matters in which they have a stake.

Miller says Trussler erred when considering the NDP the Crown. 

The decision to request a judicial review is a change of heart for McIver, who issued a written statement in January saying he accepted Trussler's findings.

"It didn't really in my heart sit right so I thought, 'Well, OK, what's it going to hurt to get some advice.' And the advice I got is that it may not be OK so now we're going to find out," said McIver.

Trussler was a judge in the Court of Queen's Bench in Alberta for 20 years and chaired the Joint Legislative Review Committee of the Law Society and the Canadian Bar Association.

The judicial review is set to take place in the Court of Queen's Bench in Calgary in January 2018. That was the first available date due to a backlog in Alberta's courts.

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