Former Alberta premier Alison Redford’s executive assistant went directly from his political position to an all-expenses paid provincial government job, which allowed him to live in Denver, Colo., at taxpayers’ expense.
Documents obtained through freedom of information by CBC News Edmonton show Ryan Barberio racked up tens of thousands of dollars in hotel, food, per diem and travel expenses between September 2013 and April 2014 while he worked intermittently in Denver as a commercial officer with Alberta’s International and Intergovernmental Relations (IIR).
In total, Barberio spent four months in a Denver hotel at a cost of more than $25,000, not including thousands of dollars more in meal claims, per diems and travel to Calgary.
“I don’t know how we are supposed to believe that this is not a soft political landing for a political staffer known to be a close confidant of the former premier,” Canadian Taxpayers Federation spokesman Derek Fildebrandt said.
“If you are practically living in Denver, you shouldn’t be staying in hotels,” Fildebrandt said. “We have seen this from Redford staffers in the past, where they stay at fancy hotels, where they do not seem content to live in an apartment, like most people do if they are working away from where they normally live.”
Posted online expense disclosures show Barberio’s successor as Redford’s executive assistant, Brad Stables, billed the province more than $9,000 for 42 nights at the Fairmont Hotel Macdonald in Edmonton.
Denver consulate work
The documents show Barberio applied to claim out-of-province travel expenses. In his applications, Barberio stated only that he would be “working with the (Alberta) consulate in Denver on issues pertaining to Alberta’s natural resources sector,” and also “working with the consulate on specific advocacy files of importance to Alberta.”
It is not known what, if any, education or background Barberio had in government relations before he worked closely with Redford as her executive assistant. It is also not known exactly when Barberio left the premier’s office, when he joined IIR or whether he still works for the department.
Barberio did not respond to an emailed interview request.
The government also paid for Redford’s former communications director, Stefan Baranski, to fly home to Toronto twice a week. The Calgary Herald reported taxpayers paid more than $13,000 to fly Baranski to Toronto in the first year of his contract, which paid him more than $180,000 a year.
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Redford resigned as premier in March, in part due to the ongoing controversy over her lavish expense claims, including a $45,000 trip to Nelson Mandela’s funeral in South Africa.