Canada's Prime Minister Stephen Harper shakes hands with NAIT apprentice students
Canada's Prime Minister Stephen Harper (R) shakes hands with NAIT apprentice students after announcing the grant program to apprentice students at the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology in Edmonton April 9, 2009. Reuters/Dan Riedlhuber

Gordon Dirks is accused of using his office for political interest. However, Ethics Commissioner Marguerite Trussler ruled that the Alberta Education Minister had not acted against the law.

Dirks was earlier accused of using his office for ordering modular classrooms for William Reid School which is under the Calgary-Elbow constituency. It is the same constituency where Dirks was campaigning for the provincial by-elections in October. Trussler earlier launched an investigation to find out if Dirks had broken the Conflict of Interest Act by using his officer to order modular classrooms for the school. The ethics commissioner has now concluded that it was not against the law for the education minister to use his office for political interest. "I have reluctantly come to the conclusion that running for office is always a political interest and that at no time does it become a private interest," Edmonton Sun quotes Trussler who earlier wondered if "the actions of Minister Dirks in approving the modular classrooms in his constituency was only a matter of blatant political opportunism."

Trussler, on the other hand, said that the law was not made to deal with "moral integrity." She said that, if asked, she would have advised the education minister against ordering the modular classrooms on his own. She said that Dirks should have left the decision to another official. Alternatively, he could have waited for the by-election to be over before making the orders. Trussler also said that the minister using his office was a "specific political issue." She said that Dirks' letter to Calgary Board of Education Chair Joyce Bowen-Eyre did not clearly state that the modular classrooms had been approved. The letter merely said that those were "highly supported," she said.

Alberta Party Leader Greg Clark said that the ruling was "frustrating." Clark, who lost to Dirks in the by-election by around 800 votes, said that the ruling had shown that Alberta had the weakest ethics legislation in the country. He said the Trussler's decision also showed that the PC party was desperate to win elections at all costs. Dirks, meanwhile, appreciated the ruling and said that he would be "mindful" of Trussler's suggestions and comments in the future.

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