UCP government appoints 2 energy lawyers to Alberta Utilities Commission

Earlier this month, Alberta’s energy minister appointed two lawyers to the utilities commission. Both lawyers worked as counsel for energy companies.

Earlier this month, the Sonya Savage, Alberta’s energy minister, recommended to the lieutenant governor that she approve the appointment of two new members of the Alberta Utilities Commission.

She approved the recommendation, like nearly every recommendation sent to the lieutenant governor.

The two new members are:

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  • Cairns Price
  • Vera Slawinski

Cairns Price is a Calgary-based lawyer. Until earlier this year, he acted as lead counsel for MEG Energy and, prior to that, as lead counsel for TransAlta. He has a background in regulatory, environmental, and Indigenous law.

Price donated $485.71 to the PC party in 2006. MEG Energy has been a prolific political donor since 2007, specifically donating to the PC and Wildrose parties and their candidates. During the time Price was working there, MEG Energy donated to $2,800 to 3 PC constituency associations in 2012; $10,000 to the Wildrose Party for their 2012 election campaign, $15,000 for the PC’s campaign, and $5,000 for the Liberals’; $3,155 to 6 PC and 1 Wildrose constituency associations in 2013, $3,750 to the Wildrose party that year, and $12,900 to the PCs; $2,025 to 3 Wildrose and 2 PC constituency associations in 2014, $3,700 to the Wildrose party, $13,631.25 to the PC party, and $2,100 to the Liberals; $4,500 to campaigns for Jim Prentice, Gordon Dirks, and Mike Ellis for the 2014 byelection; $23,500 to the campaigns of Jim Prentice, Ric McIver, and Thomas Lukaszuk in the 2014 PC leadership race; and $656.25 to 2 PC constituency associations in 2015, as well as $9,750 to the PC party that year. During the 2015 provincial election, MEG Energy donated to $9,500 to 13 candidates running for the PC party, including Jim Prentice, who was then premier of Alberta. The donated $12,000 to the PC party and $7,400 to the Wildrose during the campaign.

Vera Slawinski recently became legal counsel for ENMAX Corporation. Prior to that, she worked for the Alberta justice minister in the Energy Legal Services department. This is not Slawinski’s first involvement with the Alberta Utilities Commission: she acted as counsel for the commission in at least 2007 and 2008.

These appointments are effective 4 January 2021.

Also in the same recommendation, the lieutenant governor approved making UCP donor Carolyn Dahl Rees the chair of the commission. She had been sitting as chair since the government kicked out Mark Kolesar as chair earlier this year. Her previous 1-year term has been extended to 2023.

Dahl Rees also has a background in regulatory law.

This brings the number of lawyers on the commission to 6.

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By Kim Siever

Kim Siever is an independent queer journalist based in Lethbridge, Alberta. He writes daily news articles, focusing on politics and labour.

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