Stelmach to cut royalties as Kent advances Canwest and PC party lawsuits

CALGARY, March 11 /CNW/ - Journalist Arthur Kent confirmed today that procedural showdowns are pending in two lawsuits before Alberta's Court of Queen's Bench arising from policy clashes with Premier Ed Stelmach during the 2008 provincial election. At issue was the government's ill-fated oil and gas royalty review.

Kent was the only one of Stelmach's 83 Progressive Conservative candidates to campaign for immediate changes to the royalty plan. He also called for an end to the party's patronage culture, which obstructs public input to government policy.

Today, Stelmach is expected to reverse elements of the royalty regime in a "competitiveness review" aimed at revitalizing Alberta's energy industry.

"At last the premier will act on the evidence offered to him before the election," Kent said today. "But he owes Albertans an apology for his refusal to refine the royalty framework two years ago, an error that sent our energy sector into the recession having already lost some 10,000 jobs and hundreds of millions of dollars in capital investment."

During the election, PC campaign officials and backroom figures launched a defamatory attack against Kent by way of a news article written by Don Martin and published in the National Post, Calgary Herald and Edmonton Journal, and internationally on the website.

Martin's sources were cloaked by anonymity. The article attacked Kent's character, conduct and reputation with false assertions. No mention was made of the royalty issue or other substantive matters. Kent was given no opportunity to comment prior to publication, and both the Herald and National Post refused to publish his response.

Kent sued Martin and Canwest in July 2008. Martin and Canwest cited the royalty clash in their Statement of Defence two months later, before the negative impact of the regime became fully evident.

In November 2009, Kent filed a separate lawsuit against Kristine Robidoux, Q.C. and ten "John Does", believed to be senior PC party members. Robidoux was Kent's campaign counsel and Official Agent, as well as an official of Ed Stelmach's provincial campaign team who reported to Stelmach via the current party president, Bill Smith.

The Court in Calgary is due to hear Kent's application that Don Martin be compelled to appear for the continuation of his examination for discovery. In January, Martin failed to appear to continue his testimony under oath, despite formal Appointments having been served.

In an affidavit, publicly available with other case documents at the Calgary Courts Centre, Kent states that Martin's examination by Kent's solicitor in July 2009 was not completed, and that "critical documents were not produced by the solicitor for the Defendants until the examination was underway."

The affidavit states that the defendants had failed to include the documents in their Affidavit of Record "which had been due seven months previous." The document details "a pattern of delay" which has "had the effect of needlessly delaying the timely progress of this action."

Kent said today: "This is a sad commentary on the management of what used to be Canada's biggest news conglomerate. Try as they might to delay justice, they cannot deny it.

"My lawyers and I will take these actions to trial, regardless of changes in Canwest's ownership, or of leadership at our Alberta legislature."

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