Documents obtained by CBC show the City of Calgary paid almost $144,000 for Ralph Klein's memorial last year.

Colleen Klein at Ralph memorial

Colleen Klein arrives at Calgary City Hall for her late husband's memorial. (Scott Dippel/CBC)

Using the province's Freedom of Information legislation, it appears the event honouring the former mayor and premier cost more than expected and the city wasn't anxious for Calgarians to find out the details.

Costs included everything from funeral expenses, buying flowers and renting a concert hall to paying for police, caterers and photographers.

The city set aside $100,000 for the event.

Expenditures:

  • Costs for the Epcor Centre: $28,000
  • Creative services (photography, videography, newspaper ads, etc): $24,000
  • City staff costs: $22,000
  • Police costs: $12,000
  • Funeral home costs: $11,000
  • Flowers: $5,000

But David Danchuk from the city's manager office says there was an agreement to split the costs with the province. 

"The Government of Alberta paid for 51 per cent of the costs related to the memorial service, which resulted in a $73,144.24 payment," he said in an email.

"[So] the city did come under budget on the memorial," he added.

By all accounts, the city's memorial for Ralph Klein was a fitting tribute for a long-serving political leader.

But the city also charged hundreds of dollars to produce the documents and refused to waive those fees, arguing the information wasn't in the public interest.

Mayor to look into delay

Sharon Polsky, a privacy legislation expert, says governments like the city talk a lot about being transparent but don't always follow through.

"It's become a fairly meaningless buzzword as they hide behind saying no or simply putting in such fee structures that it makes it onerous or impossible certainly for the general public to know how can they go about getting a straight simple answer."

Mayor Naheed Nenshi is looking into why the cost of Ralph Klein's memorial service wasn't released to the public months ago. 

"My general philosophy is if we have the information handy we should just give it to people," he said. "So I'd like to find out what happened on this one."

Coun. Evan Woolley says he is disappointed that the information was not shared immediately, adding the city should provide more details on how public money is spent rather than charging the public to get the information.

"These numbers should be available for the media [and] the public ... to know about. It's a public event and we make available all different types of costs for different things and it's unfortunate it took this long," he said.

The Canadian Taxpayers Federation says it's not surprised at the cost of the event, but agreed the information should have been shared free of charge.

Klein memorial

The "celebration of life" hosted by the City of Calgary was held at the Jack Singer Concert Hall in the Epcor Centre for the Performing Arts, which is across the street from City Hall where Ralph Klein sat in the mayor’s chair for most of the 1980s. (Scott Dippel/CBC)