Redford billed taxpayers $330K for personal travel scout: documents
EDMONTON – An Alberta Tory leadership candidate says Alison Redford needs to consider whether she’s fit to serve as a member of the legislature given revelations the former premier had a travelling trip planner that billed $330,000 in expenses.
“I’m at a point right now where I think I’m tired of talking about the member for Calgary-Elbow,” Thomas Lukaszuk said in an interview Thursday referring to Redford’s seat.
“I think it’s evident to all of us now that her conduct is not reflective of the values of any of the political parties at the Alberta legislature.
“She has to make some decisions, or some decisions have to be made for her.”
Redford, who quit as premier in March, could not be reached for comment. She has declined in the past to comment on her spending as premier, saying it’s in the past and she’s moving forward as the backbencher for her riding.
Lukaszuk was responding to new documents released by the Alberta government that reveal the expenses of a International and Intergovernmental Relations staffer directed by Redford’s office to work as an advance liaison on Redford’s trips.
For 20 months starting in the spring of 2012, staffer Michelle Tetreault travelled around the world – to China, India, Washington and Zurich – setting up meetings at a cost of almost $330,000.
International Relations Minister Cal Dallas said that in the past, trip planning was done at home or with the help of officials who worked abroad or happened to be travelling where the premier would visit.
That changed with Redford, he said.
“The former premier requested the creation of a position that met her specific needs that related to advance planning for international travel and missions,” said Dallas.
Lukaszuk, who served as Redford’s deputy premier for some of the period in question, said he was not aware of the travelling trip planner.
Documents show Tetreault began her work shortly after Redford and the Tories won the 2012 election.
Dallas said the position was cancelled and Tetreault was reassigned within the department shortly after Redford resigned as premier in March.
Redford quit ahead of a growing caucus and party revolt over lavish spending on herself and her inner circle.
READ MORE: Redford’s travel expenses criticized
The bill included large six-figure incomes and severance payouts for her staff. There were personal flights on government planes and trips for Redford’s daughter and her daughter’s friends.
After she left, it was revealed that in January, then Infrastructure Minister Ric McIver cancelled Redford’s plan to build a luxury suite on top of the government’s Federal Building, which is currently being renovated.
The suite was to be modelled on the plush Hay Adams Hotel in Washington. About $173,000 had already been spent on design and engineering concepts when McIver cancelled it because he considered the suite a poor use of government funds.
READ MORE: Redford planned swank penthouse: documents
The receipts also revealed that up until this past spring, Redford’s former executive assistant, Ryan Barberio, racked up more than $25,000 in hotel bills alone over an eight-month period in Denver while working for the province.
McIver, who is also now running in leadership race, said if he gets the top job, he will tolerate no surprises in government travel receipts.
“It’s essential that we as government respect the taxpayer dollar,” said McIver in a written statement.
“As leader and premier, I will have that expectation of every member of government, but especially of my own staff.”
Tory leadership candidate Jim Prentice has promised to put strict rules in place to prevent indulgent and wasteful spending by members of the legislature.
Wildrose finance critic Rob Anderson said profligate spending is embedded in the Tory culture, and that while Redford is blameworthy, she has become a party scapegoat.
“It’s pretty disingenuous for them to dump it all at Redford’s feet,” said Anderson.
© The Canadian Press, 2014