The provincial government announced yesterday that they were replacing Alberta Utilities Commission chair Mark Kolesar with Carolyn Dahl Rees, who has donated thousands of dollars to the United Conservative Party.
Dahl Rees was appointed to the AUC just this past March, and her appointment as interim chair—effective today—is for a year.
The announcement comes less than a week after the commission released their inaugural annual report card, and nowhere in the chair’s message did Kolesar indicate that he planned to leave. In fact, he even spoke of Dahl Rees’s March appointment, saying:
I look forward to working with her again, and to the contribution she will make as we navigate through times of considerable change.
The AUC also released a statement from Kolesar regarding the report card, and likewise, nowhere in there did it seem that he planned to leave.
The Order in Council tied to yesterday’s announcement announced that Kolesar’s membership and chairship on the commission had both been rescinded.
An announcement from the AUC regarding the replacement provided no details to the seemingly sudden departure of Kolesar. Neither did the government’s announcement. In fact, Kolesar’s term as a member of the commission wasn’t due to expire until July 2023.
Dahl Rees, a utility and regulatory lawyer, was the interim chair of the AUC when it launched in 2008. She later served until July 2012 as its vice-chair. Her March appointment, according to the AUC, was a result of a “third-party executive search process”.
She has donated thousands of dollars to political parties over the years. In 2014, for example, she donated $500 to the PC Party, then donated $1,000 to them in 2015. She also donated $5,000 to Jim Prentice’s PC leadership bid in 2014. In 2018, she donated $2,000 to the UCP. Last year, she donated $1,000 to the UCP Calgary–Elbow constituency association; the MLA for Calgary–Bow is Minister of Justice Doug Schweitzer, who received a $500 donation from Dahl Rees in 2017 for his UCP leadership campaign. Finally, she donated $500 to the UCP as a whole last year.
That’s over $10,000 to the PC and UCP parties since 2014.
In their announcement, the provincial government said that Dahl Rees “will strengthen the Commission’s focus on streamlining regulatory processes and reducing red tape”. It wasn’t clear whether Kolesar’s role was also strengthening that focus or whether he wasn’t strengthening it enough.
In a statement accompanying the announcement, Dale Nally, the associate minister of natural gas and electricity, mentioned that Dahl Rees was “well qualified to provide leadership as the Commission modernizes its operations while continuing to focus on its core operations.”
Finally, the announcement concluded with this statement:
Government expects the AUC to strengthen its work through streamlining processes, reducing red tape, and increasing investor confidence in Alberta’s electricity sector.