Former premier Alison Redford returned to the Alberta Legislature Monday for the first time since her abrupt resignation from the province’s top political job on March 19, but had little to say about the scandals that followed her departure.
After weeks of controversy over her absence, including calls from two of her former ministers to return to work, Redford attended the afternoon session of the legislature.
She stopped to speak with reporters after the session but refused to answer questions about the scandals that erupted after she left the premier’s office.
'I am certainly not stepping back from anything that I did and I'm not adding anything else to that story. Do you have anything new or are we done?' —Alison Redford's response when questioned about spending scandals
On March 28, CBC News reported Redford had personally ordered a luxury penthouse be built on top of the Federal Building, now under renovation near the legislature.
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On April 14, CBC News reported Redford had flown her daughter on government planes dozens of times, including two long weekends in Jasper in which there is no record of the former premier conducting any government work.
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Redford refused repeated interview requests from CBC News for both stories, but on Monday she insisted she had responded.
"I've answered those questions," Redford told reporters in the scrum. "I am certainly not stepping back from anything that I did and I'm not adding anything else to that story. Do you have anything new or are we done?"
Specifically, in relation to the penthouse, Redford told reporters Monday, “I know that I had representatives who provided you with information on our perspective. Reporters have written that story. You have all written that story.
“I don't think that anything is gained by continuing to comment on that story and I have nothing else to add,” she said.
The Wildrose Party has asked the RCMP to investigate Redford’s use of government planes for those long-weekend trips to Jasper with her daughter and a friend of her daughter’s.
Redford's absence from legislature
In April, Redford informed the Speaker of the Alberta Legislature she would be absent, but Gene Zwozdesky did not release a reason why Redford would be absent.
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The former premier and her daughter were subsequently photographed in Palm Springs, Calif., where she and her husband own a condo.
That prompted two ministers, Thomas Lukaszuk and Jonathan Denis, to publicly comment that if Redford was able to be in the legislature, she should be attending the session.
On Monday, Redford said that while she did take some time to be with her family in Palm Springs, she was also working in her constituency.
"I know there are some people who believe the only way an MLA can be effective in doing their job is sitting in [question period],” she said. “I know for my constituents it matters that I am doing the work that I am doing.
“And I did also get to spend, for the first time in four years, some time with [daughter] Sarah, and [husband] Glen; first time ever we all took off together and, as you all know what I did on the holiday, I won't go into detail on that.”
Redford intends to finish term
While she was absent, Redford made occasional posts to her Twitter account. On April 10, she also handed out a government cheque in Calgary.
Redford’s resignation as premier followed a caucus and party revolt over the party’s plummeting popularity in the polls.
A poll in early April showed the party had fallen to 19 per cent, compared with 46 per cent for the Wildrose Party, while Redford’s personal popularity fell to only 18 per cent.
The party’s declining fortunes were blamed, in large part, on negative publicity over Redford’s travel expenses, including a $45,000 trip to South Africa to attend the funeral of Nelson Mandela.
In his first speech to Progressive Conservative members as premier, Dave Hancock apologized on Thursday for the mistakes of the Redford era.
Without mentioning the former premier by name, Hancock told about 1,300 party members Thursday that he was sorry the governing caucus had lost touch with the grassroots.
Redford, a backbench MLA for Calgary-Elbow, said she intends to serve out her term.