Former Finance Minister, Ron Liepert has a new job. He will be working for a firm that lobbies the government- the same government he left about six months ago. Critics believe this may be a conflict of interest.
Before stepping out of the political spotlight, Liepert worked as a Minister of Health, Energy and most recently, Finance.
“I do not miss the day to day drudgery that goes along with being in elected office, including all or the media stuff,” says Liepert.
Now, he will be working for the Canadian Strategy Group, a firm that lobbies the government and whose objective is “to provide value to clients through insight into government.”
“We see this as a blatant conflict of interest. After 41 years, it seems you have to be a PC insider to get access to government,” says Wildrose MLA Shayne Saskiw.
However, Liepert maintains he will adhere to the Conflict of Interest Act. The act specifically sets out what a former minister can and can’t do when it comes to dealing with the government.
“In my particular case I will adhere to the law as it relates to significant official dealings,” says Liepert.
The Conflict of Interest Act designates a one year cooling off period. The Province’s ethics commissioners says for the one year period, Liepert cannot communicate directly with anyone who holds public office. However, he can provide background information and advise the firm.
Liepert isn’t the first ex-Minister to have his new job questioned. Last month, former Minister of Agriculture, Evan Berger took a job with his old ministry. The ethics commissioner had to waive the cooling off period in that case.
“We feel that the rules in Alberta should be the same as they are federally, where there’s a cooling off period for cabinet ministers, because there’s a patent conflict of interest,” adds Saskiw.
The federal cooling off period is five years. The rules in Alberta are different, and Liepert says he will not be breaking any of the rules.
The conflict of interest legislation applies to Liepert’s last two portfolios- Energy and Finance. It specifies that a former minister can’t directly deal with a company which had significant dealings with his or her former ministry.
With files from Vassy Kapelos.