Liberals call for central tracking of ministers' flights

The Liberal opposition says the provincial government needs a central system to keep track of charter flights by ministers.

Sale of government plane means departments will now expense charter air service for cabinet ministers

Sale of government plane leads to bids for charter service 2:00

The Liberal opposition says the provincial government needs a central system to keep track of charter flights by ministers.

Ministers have started chartering private planes for travel on government business now that the Alward government has sold the plane it used to own for $2.5 million US.

Transportation Minister Bill Fraser said there isn't enough money to do everything CUPE president Andrew Hardy is asking for. (CBC)
The Department of Transportation kept a log of all flights for the government plane and made them available to the public.

But charter flights are expensed by individual departments and are not as easily tracked.

Liberal MLA Bill Fraser says a more transparent system is needed.

"There should be a log put up for the public to see, as to who's on the plane, where they're going, what the cost is, how much the invoice is, and a reason why they use that service," said Fraser.

The expenses of cabinet ministers are posted online.

The New Brunswick government has sold its 2006 King Air B-200 aircraft for $2.5 million US to Can-West Corporate Air Charters Ltd., which provides air ambulance services in Alberta. (CBC)
However, in cases where a minister's air travel is classed as a departmental expense rather than a ministerial expense, the charter cost doesn't appear online in ministerial expense claims. Instead, the cost and charter company will eventually be disclosed in the department's annual report.

Fraser says that demonstrates the need for a centralized system to record all ministerial charters just as the government-owned plane did through its central log.

"Instead of going to the department of transportation and the executive flight service, and have one department you can ask all your questions to and get all your information from, now we're going to be forced to go to every department individually," said Fraser.

The government is assessing bids from five companies to be put on retainer for charter air services.

Finance Minister Blaine Higgs said Friday he hopes to create a way to track the chartering of private planes by government departments.

Higgs says there should be a system similar to the central logging system that was in place to track use of the government-owned plane in recent years.

"We want to do that actually," said Higgs. "The whole purpose of going from an owned aircraft to one we used when we need it was to find a financial benefit in doing that. That's the purpose.

"So to be able to track that is not unlike any other decision. I'd like to be able to track the results."

Higgs says since the government stopped using its plane last year in advance of selling it, there have been far fewer flights by charter service.

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