03/12/2012 06:53 EDT | Updated 05/12/2012 05:12 EDT

Alberta premier takes heat for hiring Asia trade rep now under ethics cloud

EDMONTON - Alberta's opposition critics say Premier Alison Redford has to accept her share of the blame for the ethics controversy surrounding her former political rival, Gary Mar.

Redford has suspended Mar without pay from his post as Alberta's trade representative to Asia while there's an investigation into whether he used his public job to solicit funds to pay off private debts.

Redford appointed Mar to the job soon after defeating him in the party race to become premier last fall.

The opposition NDP and Liberals note she hired Mar even though he had a checkered history of ethics violations.

In 2004 Mar was criticized by Alberta's auditor general for giving $400,000 in consulting contracts to a former assistant with no proof of any work being done.

Mar has not commented, and it's not known how long the probe will take.