Premier to repay some expenses, but defiant over $45K airfare
Alison Redford refuses to repay $45,000 in face of withering criticism
After defiantly rejecting calls to repay $45,000 in travel expenses during question period today, Alberta Premier Alison Redford admitted there were other worrisome expenses — ones that she will repay.
- Alison Redford billed taxpayers for $9,200 Palm Springs flight
- Premier Alison Redford sorry but not paying back $45K for trip
At a last-minute news conference this afternoon, Redford said she'll return to taxpayers $3,156 — the cost of flying to Vancouver for an uncle's funeral and for bringing her daughter's friends along on four other trips.
"On a few occasions when I know that my schedule will be demanding, I've encouraged Sarah to bring along a friend," said Redford.
"But upon reflection, taxpayers should not have to pay any of the costs that are associated with my daughter's friends' travel."
Redford also asked the auditor general to review how government aircraft are used and suspended government planes from flying outside of the province until the review is complete.
Earlier Redford faced withering criticism for her expenses from the opposition at the legislature Tuesday.
Wildrose leader Danielle Smith described Redford's "stubborn refusal" to pay the $45,000 for her trip to South Africa for Nelson Mandela’s memorial as the "ultimate contempt for taxpayers."
While Redford said she accepted full responsibility for the extravagant expense, she maintained she was on government business.
"There is no doubt these numbers trouble me as well," she said. "We have take steps to ensure that these sort of situations don't happen again."
Smith shot back saying taking responsibility means paying the money back.
"We've heard the premier several times now claim responsibility and say sorry," she said. "But she continues to do nothing to demonstrate her remorse.
'Exceptional situation' won't happen again
Earlier this morning Redford said she expected the opposition would challenge her over the expenses in the first question period of the spring legislature session.
Redford has been under fire since he South Africa trip which included first-class flights and the use of a government plane when commercial flights were available.
The premier of Nova Scotia made the same trip for under $1,000.
“There’s no doubt it’s an issue,” she said in an interview on Tuesday’s Edmonton AM.
“I fully expect that will be the first question in question period today.”
When asked why she doesn’t think she should pay the money back, Redford said the trip was an “exceptional situation” that won’t happen again.
“I wish it hadn’t happened, that’s why I apologized to Albertans about it,” she said.
“We don’t want it to be like that, and we don’t want it to happen again and it won’t.”
Tories look ahead to priorities
On Monday, Redford laid out her government’s priorities in the province’s first throne speech in nearly two years.
They include introducing a new school curriculum, creating a new pipeline training facility and launching several new endowment funds.
More details are expected Thursday when the government releases its annual budget but opposition leaders expressed skepticism Alberta can afford endowment funds right now.
“I would rather see the government get back into surpluses and then put money into savings which they could use to invest into endowments,” Smith said.
“This government appears to be prepared to borrow to invest in savings and it doesn't seem to be very prudent to me.”
One of the funds will be used so small businesses and non-profit organizations can collaborate on social issues like poverty and family violence.
NDP leader Brian Mason believes it may create a distraction from cuts buried in the budget.
“It certainly looks to us that they're trying to find ways to make do with lower overall expenditures in social services so I think, in there, the devil is in the details,” he said.