Documents obtained by CBC News Edmonton appear to show former premier Alison Redford’s international and local travel cost hundreds of thousands of dollars more than her office publicly reported.
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The documents, obtained through freedom of information, show government employee Michelle Tetreault claimed expenses totalling nearly $330,000 in a 20-month period between May 31, 2012 and Jan. 26, 2014.
Tetreault, an employee of Alberta International and Intergovernmental Relations, travelled to such places as India, China, Switzerland, Washington, Toronto and Fredericton to check out restaurants, hotels, meeting venues and to conduct other advance trip preparation for the premier and her entourage.
'If it has not been disclosed and it forms part of the premier’s travel, then there is, I think, a serious failure to be open and transparent with the public'- New Democrat leader Brian Mason
The documents also show Tetreault did advance work for the premier’s so-called Building Alberta tour, which opposition parties have criticized as politicking at public expense.
Tetreault did not respond to an interview request.
A former long-serving senior cabinet minister said neither the governments of premiers Ralph Klein nor Ed Stelmach employed an advance person for international travel.
New Democrat leader Brian Mason said advance planning is a good idea, but the cost should have been publicly disclosed.
“If it has not been disclosed and it forms part of the premier’s travel, then there is, I think, a serious failure to be open and transparent with the public; in fact, to be honest with the public,” Mason said. “And I think that that is forming part of a rather dismal pattern, actually.”
Opposition politicians and others sharply criticized Redford for what they called her lavish international travel to such places as China and India. The documents appear to show Redford’s publicly disclosed travel expenses did not include Tetreault’s expenses.
Advance travel to India, Switzerland
For example, Redford publicly reported her September 2013 trade mission to China cost about $59,000. The disclosure makes no mention of advance planning costs. Documents show Tetreault spent nearly nearly $28,000 for airfare and more than $5,300 for hotels.
Redford’s trip to India and Davos, Switzerland cost more than $131,000. Tetreault travelled to India twice in advance of Redford’s trip, and also to Davos. Her airfare to India and Zurich, Switzerland alone was more than $34,000.
The documents also show Tetreault conducted advance work for Redford’s Building Alberta summer tour in Lethbridge, St. Paul and Medicine Hat.
Although an employee of International and Intergovernmental Relations, Tetreault expensed a hotel in Lethbridge on July 16, 2013 as part of Redford’s summer tour.
Tetrault claimed a hotel in St. Paul on Aug. 17, 2013, the same day Redford made an appearance at the town’s Wellness Centre to publicize her family-care clinic policy.
She claimed a hotel in Medicine Hat on Aug. 22, 2013. The day after, Redford announced a $50,000 grant for the city to study sinkholes.
Building Alberta tour advance work
Mason said political parties all do advance preparation during such provincial tours but the work is done either by a party employee or a volunteer.
“I think when you are doing that kind of glad-handing around the province, it is pretty political,” Mason said.
“I just find it odd that someone from International and Intergovernmental Relations would be handling domestic advance work for the premier. It really sounds to me like they just basically borrowed someone, or they found someone, that the International and Intergovernmental Relations department will pay for, that is essentially doing political work for the premier.”
Redford resigned in March following weeks of controversy over her travel expenses, especially a $45,000 trip to attend Nelson Mandela’s funeral in South Africa.
CBC News also revealed Redford’s daughter had flown on government planes 50 times since Redford was first elected in March 2008. On one trip, the Redford family’s nanny also flew.
Redford also flew with her daughter, and a friend of her daughter’s, on a government plane to Jasper for two long weekends at the posh Jasper Park Lodge. The former premier said she had meetings during both long weekends.
An earlier version of this story incorrectly said that Redford announced a $5,000 grant in August 2013 for the City of Medicine Hat to study sinkholes. In fact, the grant was $50,000.Jun 26, 2014 11:55 AM MT