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Spies hired by utility board: NDP

<p>The province’s embattled utility board not only hired spies to investigate angry landowners protesting a proposed power line, but also received regular updates on the results of their controversial tactics, said New Democrat Leader Brian Mason.</p>

Documents purport board gathered personal info



Mason





The province’s embattled utility board not only hired spies to investigate angry landowners protesting a proposed power line, but also received regular updates on the results of their controversial tactics, said New Democrat Leader Brian Mason.





“Heads must roll,” he told reporters after releasing documents that show how three directors were aware of the hiring of private investigators by the Alberta Energy and Utilities Board.





“This was intelligence-gathering,” he added, “and it was political intelligence.”





The documents appear to contradict previous statements made by the board over a proposed 500-kilovolt power line between Edmonton and Calgary.





When public hearings with landowners turned violent, the board told the media that four investigators were hired strictly for security reasons only.





But the 50 pages of correspondence, released under the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act, show that the investigators were also asked to gather personal information.





An e-mail sent on May 9 outlines how Shepp Johnman Investigations, a Calgary-based firm, had been hired to “provide intelligence gathering and observation.”





The e-mail was copied to board directors John Nichol, Ian Douglas, and Graham Lock. A spokesman for the board has previously stated that the directors were not aware of the hiring of private investigators until a landowner discovered them on June 8.





Mason said the documents also show that sensitive information was collected for months, including times and pass codes for listening in on conference calls, the names and descriptions of individual protesters and locations of their meetings.





The fact the directors were aware of the investigators and their tactics erodes public confidence in the utility board, he said.





“The only way to restore public trust in the integrity of the EUB is to fire the board members and senior officials involved,” Mason added.





The hiring of undercover investigators by the utility board is currently under investigation by Alberta’s privacy commissioner and the government’s energy department.





A spokesman for the utility board declined to comment on the allegations until those investigations are concluded later this year.


 
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