Wildrose leader won't condemn past premiers over aircraft abuse

The leader of the Wildrose says abuses by the PC party run deep, but she won't condemn past premiers.
Danielle Smith was on vacation when Alison Redford stepped down as MLA and the auditor general's report was released. But Smith is back and speaking out. (CBC )

The leader of the Wildrose Party didn't hesitate when asked how she thinks the Alberta Progressive Conservative Party should be punished following the release of the auditor general's report into government expenses.

"They should be unelected, every single one of them," Danielle Smith said Friday. 

Smith was absent when Redford stepped down as MLA on Wednesday and when the report was released on Thursday. Like many Albertans, she was taking a summer vacation.

But Smith is back and speaking out about the new information that has come to light. The report suggested Redford used public money inappropriately, including the use of government aircraft to fly her daughter 50 different times.
The fleet of government aircraft could be grounded in the near future as a result of the auditor general's report. (CBC)

"There have been problems with the misuse of government planes and the misuse of power by the premier's office for some time," said Smith. "It didn't just get invented. The last premier inherited practices that were firmly entrenched and deeply ingrained and permeated throughout all of government."

While the Wildrose leader said the abuses have occurred for many years, she will not condemn past PC premiers.

"You can't go back 40 years," said Smith. "The only way to actually hold the government to account is to not elect them again."

There is a suggestion that Redford has faced much more scrutiny than past premiers for similar conduct. An Edmonton Journal report in 2005 suggested over a 17-month period, government planes flew empty 235 times and Premier Ralph Klein accounted for 87 of those trips without any passengers.

When pressed about whether past premiers should also be condemned, Smith refused.

"Part of the reason Redford has fallen into greater criticism is that we are at a time when this government is trying to pretend that they are doing the right thing when it comes to tightening the belt," said Smith.

The fleet of government aircraft could be grounded in the near future as a result of the auditor general's report. The analysis showed that in 2012, the program cost $9.3 million, while a combination of commercial flights and driving would have cost $5.4 million.