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Former top AB oil sands salesman subject of ethics probe

Gary Mar used to be Alberta's best-recognized and most persuasive oil sands lobbyist in Washington, DC. But his diplomatic future is now uncertain, pending a probe from the province's ethics commissioner.

Mar resigned from his U.S. posting last year to run a failed bid for Alberta premier. That campaign ultimately cost him nearly $2.7 million, leaving a deficit of $262,000.

The subject of the ethics probe is a recent $400-per-plate fundraiser dinner hosted by Mar at Edmonton's Petroleum Club, apparently to recoup some of those costs.

At the time, Mar was serving as Alberta's diplomatic envoy to Asia, and seems to have promoted the dinner as a chance for business leaders to learn more about his overseas posting. (A second batch of invitations removed Mar's provincial government title).

The reason this could potentially be a big deal is that civil servants are not supposed to exploit their position for personal political ends.

"I'd like some more information. I'm very concerned about this. I don't think it's appropriate," premier Alison Redford reportedly said over the weekend.

This is not the first time Mar has been in trouble over a perceived conflict of interest.

The 2004 Kelley Charlebois scandal, which involved Mar paying nearly $400,000 in taxpayer money for dubious contracts to a longtime executive assistant, nearly derailed his political career.

To learn more about Mar's time in Washington, DC, check out this in-depth Tyee/Salon report on the secret oil sands lobbying strategy he helped execute with an industry lobbyist friend.

Geoff Dembicki reports on energy and climate issue for The Tyee.

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