REGINA – Saskatchewan’s Opposition NDP say something stinks about the cost of promoting a project aimed at reducing emissions.
Questions were raised Tuesday about travel expenses racked up by Mike Monea, SaskPower’s president of carbon capture and storage (CCS) initiatives.
Monea claimed $476,143 in flights, meals and accommodations from 2009 to 2014.
SaskPower and the government have taken several trips across North America, Europe and Asia to promote SaskPower’s $1.5-billion CCS facility.
According to expense reports obtained by the NDP through freedom-of-information requests, Monea’s trips in 2014 included eight days in Beijing at a cost of $9,706 to 13 days in Norway, England and France, totaling $13,862.
“I think a whole lot of the travel we’ve seen is suspect,” said NDP leader Cam Broten. “What is he selling? There’s no clear answer from government on that.”
The tab for the SaskPower executive is even higher than Premier Brad Wall’s total of $459,077 in that same timeframe.
SaskPower president Mike Marsh defended the high cost, saying it’s important to share Saskatchewan’s experience with rest of the world.
“Some day there will be some body who comes knocking on the door and that’s what (Monea’s) job is right now,” Marsh said. “Unless you get out there and establish your position in the community, the opportunities won’t present themselves.”
Monea is currently attending the Carbon Sequestration Leadership Forum in Saudi Arabia.
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The NDP also questioned three trips to Calgary’s Spruce Meadows horse racing track for an event called Holland Days.
A government spokesperson says the event was “an opportunity to discuss carbon capture and storage initiatives and advance commercial opportunities for Saskatchewan in the Netherlands.”
On two of the visits, expense reports note a spouse’s costs were also paid for by taxpayers. SaskPower paid $1,276 in airfare for Monea’s wife to attend the event.
Marsh, who signs off on expenses in his role as president since late 2014, says travel for spouses is typically “not something we would approve.”