August 12, 2014 7:49 pm

Poll: Is a public inquiry into Alberta government spending worth the cost?

WATCH: The Wildrose Party is calling on the PC leadership candidate Jim Prentice to call a public inquiry into government spending. But, is it worth the cost? Tom Vernon breaks down the numbers.

EDMONTON – The Wildrose Party hopes it can further tap into public anger with Alberta’s PC party after the Auditor General released his report into the misuse of government aircraft by former Premier Alison Redford and her staff.

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The Official Opposition is now stepping up the pressure on PC leadership candidate Jim Prentice, demanding he call a public inquiry into government spending if he’s elected leader of the party next month.

“I challenge Jim Prentice to look within himself, find that champion of accountability,” Kerry Towle said during a media conference Tuesday morning, pointing to comments Prentice made as a Member of Parliament nine years ago in support of the Gomery inquiry.

“Give Albertans what he’s fought so hard to give Canadians, real accountability through a public inquiry.”

Prentice has said he does not believe a full public inquiry is necessary.

“I think the Auditor General has gotten to the bottom of it,” Prentice told Global News.  “He’s provided a pretty comprehensive report, they’ve made recommendations of what needs to be done, it’s been referred to the RCMP, and I think that’s exactly what Albertans expect.”

Holding a public inquiry isn’t without precedent in Alberta. Just last year an inquiry was held into alleged queue jumping in the healthcare system.

Ottawa lawyer Eugene Oscapella, the editor-in-chief of the final report, believes inquiries can have merit.

“If the government seems to be the source of the problem, and then it ends up conducting its own inquiry, it appears to be investigating itself, and of course that doesn’t give the public a lot of confidence,” Oscapella said.

The $7 million report found queue jumping does occur, but not to the extent that had been alleged.  Oscapella believes it’s up to Albertans to decide whether it was worth the cost.

“Is it worth that to try to ensure public confidence in the publicly-funded healthcare system?  I think a lot of people might say yes, that at the end of the day that’s not a big price to pay.”

The Auditor General’s latest report cost Alberta taxpayers $485,400, but Towle believes spending millions more to dig even deeper into the PC government’s finances would be well worth the price.

“We already know there’s wrongdoing,” she said.  “The public inquiry would be able to take that one step further.”

© Shaw Media, 2014

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