Premier Alison Redford told the Alberta legislature that accusations she was in conflict of interest when she chose her ex-husband's law firm for a government tobacco-litigation contract are "absolutely inaccurate and false."
"When the decision was made by the government of Alberta as to who to retain on this file, I was not the justice minister, I was not a member of cabinet, I was an MLA running to be the leader of this party," she said on Wednesday.
"We are confident that the decisions that have been made to recover billions of dollars from the tobacco industry are in the hands of a firm that was of good service to taxpayers, cost-effective, Mr. Speaker, and selected by other jurisdictions."
In a Dec. 14, 2010, document obtained by CBC News through a freedom of information request, Redford — then Alberta's justice minister — recommends that the government award the contract to International Tobacco Recovery Lawyers, a consortium of law firms from Florida, Ontario and Alberta.
The consortium includes the firm of Jensen Shawa Solomon Duguid Hawkes (JSS). Redford's former husband, Robert Hawkes, is a partner in JSS and was her transition team leader after she won the leadership of the Progressive Conservative Party in 2011.
Redford stepped down as justice minister in February 2011 to run for the leadership of the Progressive Conservative party.
Justice Minister Jonathan Denis told the house that the final decision on the contract was made by Redford's successor, Verlyn Olson, after she had resigned from cabinet.
Denis added that conflict of interest legislation does not cover ex-spouses.
Opposition members asked Redford question after question about the matter during Wednesday's question period, hours after CBC News published and broadcast a story about the document.
Redford became visibly angry when Wildrose MLA Rob Anderson — who, like Redford, is a lawyer — asked how he could feel comfortable filing a complaint about her with the Law Society of Alberta when the president-elect works for the firm that was awarded the tobacco contract.
"If this person, who theoretically should understand what the law society is, is now prepared to to malign the legal profession in this province, Mr. Speaker, then I have no idea where this discussion is supposed to go," Redford shot back.
"But I'll tell you Mr. Speaker, that if this honourable member decides to make a complaint, go ahead."