hi-redford

Alberta's travel expense policy need to change to reflect the times, Premier Alison Redford said. (CBC)

Alberta Premier Alison Redford used her role as a mother to defend breaking the province's travel expense rules by taking her daughter on government business trips.

Redford announced Tuesday that she'd repay $3,156 to cover flights taken by her daughter's friends on government planes.

New Democratic Party leader Brian Mason asked Redford if she knowingly broke the rules set by the auditor general eight years ago.

"The auditor general specified family members other than spouses attending official events should not travel on government aircraft," he said.

Redford responded saying the policy needs to change to keep with the times.

"We think it is important for issues to evolve, she said. "I'll tell you quite frankly one of the evolutions in this province is you have a premier who has a 12-year-old daughter."

Mason was undeterred. 

"There are thousands of government employees who are women and who have families who are not allowed to bring their children to work," he said.

Redford also found herself defending yet again her decision not to repay $45,000 racked up on a controversial trip to South Africa.

"One of the big questions today is are there enough checks and balances in place to make sure the Premier's following the rules when claiming expenses," said Wildrose Opposition leader Danielle Smith.

"The idea that somebody could be spending this kind of money without oversight from anybody and then try to duck and run by referring the matter to the auditor general to avoid tough questions in question period, that's not a sign of leadership," she said.

A political ethics expert at the University of Toronto said he's not surprised about the public backlash over the expenses.

"Especially when you have a government telling everyone they have to tighten their belts," said Duff Conacher. "And then the government is essentially  and the Premier —​ abusing not only the public's expenses, but the public's trust.

"It is of course something that pushes everyone's buttons and makes them very upset."