Opposition Wildrose Leader Danielle Smith has asked the RCMP to investigate former premier Alison Redford’s use of government resources for a long weekend last year at the luxury Jasper Park Lodge.
Smith sent a letter to the RCMP Thursday after interim premier Dave Hancock again refused to respond to repeated requests from Smith in the legislature for any proof that Redford conducted government work during the June 28, 2013 long weekend.
“If this premier knows something untoward has happened, he owes it to Albertans to tell them,” Smith said in a testy exchange with Hancock. “Not telling them is tantamount to covering it up. If this premier refuses to answer, we will have no choice but to ask the RCMP to investigate whether taxpayer dollars were used to pay for a Jasper resort vacation for the former premier.”
As he had all week, Hancock refused to provide any information.
“I already advised the House,” Hancock said. “I have no information with respect to that. And I am not about to scurry and get information with respect to that. The auditor general is looking into the travel policy and the expense policy, and has access to all the information and will report in due course.”
Smith’s onslaught in the Alberta legislature began Monday, just hours after CBC News broke the story that Redford had flown her daughter on 50 separate government flights, including one flight that also carried the family’s nanny.
The investigation also revealed Redford, accompanied by her daughter and a friend of her daughter’s, twice flew on government planes for long weekends in Jasper — Sept. 28 to 30, 2012 and June 28 to 30, 2013. To facilitate the trips, the planes had to fly empty twice for each weekend.
The former premier’s public expense disclosure shows she and her entourage stayed at the luxury Jasper Park Lodge during the 2013 visit. But because there are no publicly available expense disclosure documents prior to October 2012, it is not known where Redford stayed on that long weekend in September.
No government work?
Ministers in Alberta who use government planes are required to provide a brief reason. For both long weekends, Redford simply stated, “Attending meetings with government officials.”
But CBC News could find nothing on the public record that indicated Redford met with government officials for each day of those long weekends. CBC made repeated requests since March 26 to both the interim premier’s office and to Redford’s office for her itinerary, or proof of any government work on those weekends. Neither responded.
Redford began her June 2013 long weekend in Jasper on the same day the government of Alberta assumed responsibility for flood recovery in High River, the community worst hit by the devastating floods. It was also the same weekend that High River citizens were first allowed to return to survey the destruction of their homes.
“Hundreds of dedicated government workers, including a few cabinet ministers, were struggling to get the first of the residents of High River back into their homes,” Smith told the legislature Monday, then asked Hancock: “Who was the premier meeting with in Jasper while this was going on?”
Hancock declined to directly answer.
Redford announced her resignation as premier on March 19 after a poll surfaced which showed her long-ruling Conservative party had plummeted to 28 per cent. Many observers pinned the blame on negative publicity related to Redford’s lavish travel expenses, including a trip to South Africa to attend the funeral of Nelson Mandela which cost taxpayers $45,000.
She has since repaid the money to the province.
Redford has not been in the Legislature since her resignation.
On March 28th, CBC News broke another story about how Redford had personally ordered a penthouse to be built in a government building now under renovation. The penthouse was abandoned but the government has refused to clarify when or how much it cost. Some political observers say Redford likely won’t return for this spring legislative sitting and may not even return in the fall.
Through her office today, Redford again declined to answer any questions.
In an interview with CBC outside the legislature Thursday, Wildrose Leader Danielle Smith drew a comparison between recent criminal investigations of politicians in Ottawa and her party’s complaint against Redford.
“We have seen at the federal level that the RCMP have been brought in to investigate when politicians use their office for personal benefit,” he said. “It certainly is not my preference to see this. I would have preferred for the government to come up with an answer to this. The fact that they’re not producing one, I think it means that it is a matter for the RCMP.”
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