Saskatchewan government to sell Executive Air Service planes to save money

The Saskatchewan government says it will wind down its Executive Air Service and sell its two aircraft.

The Saskatchewan government says it will wind down its Executive Air Service and sell its two aircraft.

The government says that it no longer makes economic sense to keep the planes to fly around the lieutenant-governor, the premier, cabinet ministers, MLAs and senior officials.

READ MORE: Saskatchewan NDP plans to ground the provinces executive plane fleet

“It just doesn’t make sense in these challenging fiscal times to continue paying those high overhead costs when there are viable commercial options available in Saskatchewan to meet government travel needs,” Central Services Minister Christine Tell said Thursday.

Tell says use of the service has decreased to 165 trips this fiscal year from 595 trips a decade ago, and mileage is down by 73 per cent.

She says elected officials and the lieutenant-governor will travel by vehicle or use commercial and charter flight services when air travel is required to attend meetings and events around the province.

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“We’re anticipating that the overall cost of charter flights will be less than what we’re paying right now.”

The move is expected to save the cash-strapped government between $700,000 and $1 million a year.

However, the province will also have to pay about $600,000 in severance to nine employees this year, so there might be limited savings. The employees include three pilots, four mechanics and two administrative staff.

It’s not clear how much the government will get for the planes, but a ministry official says one of Executive Air’s three planes sold last year for about $2.5 million.

The province needs to save money because it is facing a $1.2-billion deficit.

The NDP said in the provincial election campaign last year that it would sell the government planes. They called the fleet “the gravy plane for politicians.”

“We’re quite happy to see the government take whatever ideas we offer up and see them out,” New Democrat Warren McCall said Thursday.

At the time, the NDP said documents obtained through the freedom- of-information law showed that former economy minister Bill Boyd spent nearly $400,000 on government flights. The party said Boyd had the airplane pick him up or drop him off at his home in southern Saskatchewan on 279 occasions.

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The Alberta government said in 2015 that it had sold off three of four planes that were part of its fleet for $6.1 million. The fourth
plane sold in January 2016.

The aircraft had become symbols of waste, excess and entitlement that brought down former Progressive Conservative premier Alison Redford.

The Alberta auditor general reported in 2014 that Redford used the planes for personal trips for herself, her pre-teen daughter and her daughter’s friends.

Alberta government MLAs also used the planes to fly to political events under the guise of official government business.

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