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Cleared in conflict investigation, Peter Sandhu back in Alberta government fold

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

EDMONTON - A member of the Alberta legislature who was cleared of conflict of interest after he tried to get rule changes to help his home-building company is back in the government caucus.

Backbencher Peter Sandhu tweeted that he is honoured to be back with the Progressive Conservatives.

The government confirmed that Sandhu, who represents Edmonton-Manning, is indeed back in the fold.

Sandhu stepped out of the caucus in May when ethics issues surfaced in a CBC report that said he had tried to get changes that would help him with what he called "vexatious" liens against his company, NewView Homes.

Ethics commissioner Neil Wilkinson acknowledged several senior civil servants felt Sandhu was inappropriately using his office to further the interest of his business.

But Wilkinson ruled the actions were acceptable given Sandhu believed the changes would benefit other home-builders, too.

Tory Caucus whip Steve Young welcomed Sandhu back in a statement.

"We supported Peter Sandhu's decision to step out of caucus until the ethics commissioner could report back on his investigation. As all members of the legislature now know, that investigation has concluded," Young said.

"As a result, upon receiving a request from Peter Sandhu, the PC caucus is pleased to welcome Peter back into the fold so we can continue working together to strengthen this province."

Wilkinson found that Sandhu had raised the issue of vexatious liens in committee and had fellow members of the legislature ask questions of the Service Alberta minister in question period about the Builders Lien Act.

Sandhu also buttonholed the minister and his staff in meetings to get the act reviewed. In one meeting, Wilkinson said, Sandhu used a lien filed against his own company as an example of what he meant.

The commissioner noted that the legislature is made up of people from diverse backgrounds and interests and that their lobby work to make things better in their areas of expertise is to be encouraged.

"It's their job," wrote Wilkinson.

Opposition parties have widely panned the ruling. The have said it flies in the face of common sense and opens the door to politicians who want to lobby for their own pet interests.

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/the-canadian-press/131210/cleared-conflict-investigation-peter-sandhu-back-alberta-gov