Excerpts from Alberta Hansard

May 12, 2004

Dr. Taft: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. According to public accounts tabled yesterday, the Department of Health and Wellness awarded almost $ 120,000 in contracts to Charlebois Consulting, a company 100 per cent owned by the minister of health's former executive assistant Kelley Charlebois. In fact, in the two years since Kelley Charlebois left his position with the minister, the Minister of Health and Wellness has awarded a total of over $250,000 in contracts. My questions are to the Minister of Health and Wellness. How does the minister explain giving over a quarter of a million dollars in government contracts to a PR firm owned by his former executive assistant?

Mr. Mar: Let me say first of all that that would include the expenses that were incurred in the conduct of this business, but most of all, Mr. Speaker, we get very, very good value and excellent advice from Mr. Charlebois.

The Speaker: The hon. leader.

Dr. Taft: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Could the minister tell us what reports Charlebois Consulting has completed for Health and Wellness, and would he table them, please?

Mr. Mar: Mr. Speaker, there are no reports as such.

The Speaker: The hon. leader.

Dr. Taft: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Can the minister tell us whether Charlebois Consulting won these contracts through a competitive process?

Mr. Mar: No, Mr. Speaker.

May 13, 2004

Dr. Taft: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Albertans are wondering if this government is looking out for taxpayers or looking out for its own friends. In the past two years the health minister awarded over $ 250,000 in contracts to the consulting firm of his own former executive assistant, Kelley Charlebois, without going through any competitive tendering process. To the minister of health: what role did the minister play in approving over $ 250,000 for these contracts?

Mr. Mar: A very integral one, Mr. Speaker.

The Speaker: The hon. leader.

Dr. Taft: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Given that the minister admitted yesterday that there was no competitive tendering process on these contracts, how do Albertans know that they got value for their money?

Mr. Mar: Mr. Speaker, I'll be happy to talk about that right now. An RFP is not required for contracts under $ 100,000. At the beginning of a contract year we try our very best to estimate what we will require in terms of consulting advice and so on. I can assure the hon. member that when the contract was signed at the beginning of the year, it was for less than $ 100,000, but as you can understand and appreciate – and I think most people who operate large enterprises would – the value of a consultant over a period of time may result in them spending a great deal of time on a particular issue in one week and then perhaps no time the following week, but we can't exactly estimate the value of what the total contract plus expenses will be for an entire year. I can say, Mr. Speaker, that Kelley Charlebois has had many years of experience in government and outside of government. You don't get that kind of training anywhere else, and government doesn't get the kind of advice that we get from this individual from people who have never worked inside government. An example of a job that would have been given to Kelley Charlebois would be that all of the provinces of the country were asked to put forward a name as a representative to serve as a liaison with the Romanow commission. Now, no report is produced per se by the individual consultants, but I can assure hon. members of this House and Albertans that every province put forward the names of people that they thought would serve well in their capacity as a liaison with the Romanow commission. Other examples exist, Mr. Speaker, of work that he's done. I'm happy to outline it in more detail. Again, Mr. Speaker, I can assure hon. members that the 250,000 approximate dollars that were spent over a two-
year period – it's a lot of money. I acknowledge that. But consider that in the next 15 minutes we'll spend approximately $ 250,000 on our health care system, which costs $ 8 billion, and if I can improve the quality of the health care system, if I can improve the relationships with our health care providers, if I can improve our relationships with our regional health authorities by spending money on a consultant, I can assure you that I will continue to do so.

The Speaker: The hon. leader.

Dr. Taft: Thank you. To the same minister. He's described the work of this person. Why not use one of the hundreds – hundreds – of staff in his own department if not simply to reward a friend and supporter?

Mr. Mar: Mr. Speaker, we do in fact have many people in our
department that work with outside groups, and let me say that we've accomplished a great deal in terms of renewal and reform of our health care system over the period of the last four years. Many people deserve credit, and some of the people that deserve credit work within our own civil service. We pay them credit for the work that's been done. We also acknowledge, Mr. Speaker, that the work is being done by regional health authority chairs, chief executive officers, health professionals, physicians, nurses. There are many people who deserve the credit for the kind of high-
quality health care system that we have today. But we also acknowledge that there's a role for outsiders, people from outside of government, to also give us a fresh perspective on some of the policy issues that we may be working on within government.

The Speaker: Second Official Opposition main question. The hon. Leader of the Official Opposition.

Dr. Taft: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. To the Premier: can the Premier tell us if other departments follow the same practice as Health and Wellness of awarding untendered contracts over a hundred thousand dollars to former government officials?

Mr. Klein: Mr. Speaker, I would imagine that all departments of government follow the rules.

The Speaker: The hon. leader.

Dr. Taft: Thank you. Again to the Premier: can he tell us whether in 2003 the $ 129,000 in contracts awarded to his former chief of staff, Rod Love, went through the proper tendering process, or did Mr. Love get the same free ride as Mr. Charlebois?

Mr. Klein: Well, first of all, I don't know if Mr. Charlebois got a free ride. I don't think he did. As the hon. minister pointed out, Mr. Charlebois is tremendously knowledgeable in government and in matters related to health. Mr. Love is also very knowledgeable in government matters, Mr. Speaker, and I would imagine that any consulting fees paid to Mr. Love were paid in accordance with the rules set by this Legislature.

The Speaker: The hon. leader.

Dr. Taft: Thank you. Can the Premier tell us what reports Rod Love Consulting has completed for government, and will he table them?

Mr. Klein: I can't tell you offhand, Mr. Speaker, but if the hon. member will provide a written question, we'll be glad to provide the answers.

April 11, 2005

Dr. Taft: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. It's not just in Quebec where governing parties channel money to their friends. The list of government contracts in Alberta going to friends of the PC Party with taxpayers getting nothing to show for it is long indeed. The former minister of health handed $ 400,000 of Albertans' money to his friend Kelley Charlebois, yet not one page of work exists, not a memo, not a letter, apparently not even an e-
mail. The Auditor General of Alberta, lacking the teeth of his federal counterpart, refuses to launch a special investigation. To the Minister of Health and Wellness: can she tell us what Kelley Charlebois did for $ 400,000 of taxpayers' money?

Ms Evans: Mr. Speaker, the amount referenced was over a threeyear period. There was advice provided to the minister. I know that there were appropriate receipts for the travel expenditures. This was discussed at Public Accounts, and at that time I made a commitment that the procedures were being followed. We are working very hard to make sure that staff are trained in appropriate ways so that this won't happen again.

The Speaker: The hon. leader.

Dr. Taft: Thanks, Mr. Speaker. Will this minister request that the Auditor General launch a full special investigation into what the $ 400,000 was used for?

Ms Evans: No, Mr. Speaker. The Auditor General has conducted his audit, and we have had a discussion about that in the context of a meeting with the executive committee, and I don't know that any more needs to be said. He has in fact examined those books. He has spoken out at the time of Public Accounts, and I'm not sure what more we would uncover.

The Speaker: The hon. leader.

Dr. Taft: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. To the same minister: don't the taxpayers of Alberta deserve to know what that $ 400,000 was spent on?

Ms Evans: Mr. Speaker, my understanding is that that advice was provided to the minister. There were several issues that the minister was facing. I am told that the advice related to things such as the changes in the regional health boundaries, among others. I don't think more needs to be added.

The Speaker: Second Official Opposition main question. The hon. Leader of the Official Opposition.

Rod Love Consulting Inc.

Dr. Taft: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. As I said, the list of government contracts going to friends of the government, of the PC Party is long indeed. This government sank over a million dollars into a study quarterbacked by a group led by the Premier's friend and now chief of staff, Rod Love, only to learn, as many people predicted, that government money for a railroad to Fort McMurray is not justified. To the Premier: how many tax dollars of the 1 and a quarter million this government sank into this study went personally to the Premier's chief of staff?

Mr. Klein: Mr. Speaker, I don't know, and I say that quite frankly. I really don't know. I do know that Rod Love was hired as a consultant, when he was in the consulting business, to advise the consortium on communications. As to the amount he was paid, I don't know, but I'd be happy to find out.

The Speaker: The hon. leader.

Dr. Taft: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Exactly when and where –
exactly – will the Premier make this information public?

Mr. Klein: I don't know where, and I don't know when, but I can make this commitment. I will do it as soon as possible.

The Speaker: The hon. leader.

Dr. Taft: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Speaking of making things public, will the Premier instruct his chief of staff to make public the directives given to him by the Ethics Commissioner regarding his private lobbying business, as Mr. Love promised to do?

Mr. Klein: I don't have any problems, Mr. Speaker.