Former Alberta premier Alison Redford flew her daughter on 50 separate government flights, including one with her family’s nanny, a CBC News investigation has found.
Redford also used government planes to fly to Jasper for two long weekends with her daughter. On each trip, they were accompanied by a friend of her daughter, a sheriff and an executive assistant.
'What it looks like, right now, is that a government plane was used to, essentially, take a family vacation.' - Wildrose critic Rob Anderson
The former premier’s public expense disclosures show Redford expensed at least one weekend’s stay at the luxury Jasper Park Lodge — June 28 to 30, 2013 — for herself and her executive assistant. It is not known if Redford also expensed the second weekend — Sept. 28 to 30, 2012 — or where the premier and her entourage stayed.
The reason for the trips provided by Redford on the public flight manifests was listed as “meetings with government officials.”
In response to CBC’s story, Wildrose leader Danielle Smith called on the Alberta government to sell the planes.
In a news release, Smith said the revelations show the Progressive Conservatives can’t be trusted to use the planes only for government business.
“It’s time this government got rid of the air fleet once and for all,” she said.
Interim Premier Dave Hancock’s director of communications, Craig Loewen, has refused to respond to repeated requests from CBC News since March 26 for an explanation of who Redford met with and what government business she conducted on those long weekends in Jasper. Redford did not respond to interview requests.
“It is hard not to assume the worst when you don’t have transparency and honesty,” Wildrose finance critic Rob Anderson said in an interview. “And what it looks like, right now, is that a government plane was used to, essentially, take a family vacation.
“If that is not true, (if) that is not accurate, then Ms. Redford needs to make sure that she puts out the details of that trip, and Premier Dave Hancock needs to make sure that those details are put out there so that we can confirm that the government airplane was not used, essentially, for a family vacation at Alberta taxpayer expense,” Anderson said.
Jasper flight timing troubling, Mason says
Redford and her entourage flew to Jasper from Calgary on June 28, 2013 and returned to Calgary on June 30. The government plane flew empty twice, from and to Jasper, to facilitate the trip.
On that same weekend, the Alberta government assumed responsibility for flood recovery for the devastated town of High River.
Former Alberta premier Alison Redford twice used government planes to fly with her daughter to Jasper for long weekends. The reason she provided: "meetings with government officials."
Redford did not respond to our interview requests.
For nearly three weeks, CBC News repeatedly asked Craig Loewen, communications director for interim Premier Dave Hancock, to explain what government business Redford had conducted.
New Democrat Leader Brian Mason said the timing of Redford’s trip is troubling.
“I don’t think she was doing her job,” he said. “If she is off for a long weekend in Jasper while the flood cleanup is still underway, the provincial government is just taking responsibility and hundreds of people are still out of their home, it doesn’t fit with the kind of impression she tried to give of being really in charge, and out there communicating with people about what was going on and making sure that relief was getting to the people who needed it.
“You know you can’t do that from the Jasper Park Lodge,” Mason said. “That is for sure.”
On Sept. 28, 2012, Redford attended the final day of the Alberta Forest Products Association’s annual general meeting at the Jasper Park Lodge.
She also took a brief arts tour in Jasper the next day and then met briefly with Jasper Mayor Richard Ireland. But it is not known what, if any, government business she conducted on that long weekend.
A government plane twice flew empty to facilitate the premier’s September long weekend in Jasper.
Nanny on flight
On March 4, about two weeks before her resignation, Redford held a news conference in which she apologized for taking her daughter’s friends on government airplanes on four occasions, and for using a plane to fly to Vancouver for government meetings, but also to attend an uncle’s funeral.
Redford said she asked her staff to “comb” through her flights to find any instances in which her daughter’s friends flew on flights. She acknowledged those flights were inappropriate and promised to reimburse $3,156.
But Redford made no mention of flying her nanny from Calgary to Edmonton or of reimbursing that cost.
Flight manifests show that on Dec. 2, 2008, while Redford was justice minister, she was accompanied on the flight by three government officials, her daughter Sarah Jermyn, and a woman named “A. Escultero.” CBC News has confirmed Angelita Escultero was, and still is, Redford’s nanny.
Also during the March 4 news conference, Redford made no reference to the appropriateness of taking her daughter on government flights.
Instead, she defended the practice, saying that, “at the end of the day, I am the premier of Alberta. But I am also the mother to a daughter, who I love to spend time with. I think many mothers can relate to that, and I don’t always get to do that.
“And there are times where I have to do business that takes me away from home, and I do bring Sarah with me, and you know that,” Redford said.
But opposition politicians say they had no idea Redford’s daughter had flown on government planes dozens of times. There were also two occasions in which Sarah Jermyn flew without Redford.
A review of the government’s flight logs reveals at least one other MLA took their child on a flight. On Feb. 14 and 15, 2014, the daughter of Calgary Conservative MLA Sandra Jansen accompanied her on flights between Calgary and Edmonton. Redford and her daughter were on the same flights.
Mason said Redford was wrong to use the government planes as personal transportation for her daughter.
“There is a real double standard there and it really does get back to this idea of the entitlement of the government, of the premier, and her circle," Mason said.
“There are thousands and thousands of provincial employees who are parents — in many cases, single parents — who do not have the luxury or the privilege of taking their children to work with them and moving their families around using government transportation.”
Mason also criticized other Tory ministers, MLAs, and government employees, who for years “turned a blind eye” to the abuse of the planes.
Redford breached no government policies in taking her daughter, or even her nanny, on government flights.
A previous government policy banned children from flights. Spouses were only allowed to fly if they had been invited to a public function. But in 2005, that policy was inexplicably dropped for one that allowed any minister who ordered a flight to approve any passenger.
Wildrose finance critic Rob Anderson said the loosened policy is symptomatic of a government too long in power.
“The fleet itself is one of the biggest symbols of entitlement of the Alberta government,” he said. “Let’s get rid of that. It is disrespectful to taxpayers and it is unnecessary.”
The document below is a chronology of our attempts to get answers on the flights from the premier's office:
Below is a breakdown of former premier Alison Redford's flights with her daughter: