Alison Redford plagued by expense questions as party looks to recover
PC Party president believes Alberta's premier can regain her popularity
Alberta's Progressive Conservatives are still in damage control mode after two MLAs resigned from the Tory caucus this last week.
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Some MLAs are still talking about following suit and more examples of questionable spending have emerged.
Liberal Leader Raj Sherman says an access to information request produced an untendered communications contract to a PC insider during the Alberta floods for more than $250,000.
"A quarter of a million dollars is a lot of money when the government has a public affairs bureau that is highly skilled and heavily financed," he said.
A four-day trip to Chicago and Toronto by the premier and an executive assistant that cost more than $16,000 is also raising some concerns.
"I think the record is crystal clear this premier doesn't respect public funds and has an attitude of entitlement," said NDP leader Brian Mason.
But the government house leader says it's time to move on and return to the business of governing.
Plan laid out for premier
PC Party president Jim McCormick says he supports Redford as leader and believes the embattled premier can turn the party's fortunes around.
"We've laid out a plan we hope and truly believe that will get us out the other side, shall we say," he said.
The work plan was drafted on the weekend after a day-long meeting between Redford and the party's executive. It came one day after Calgary Tory MLA Len Webber abandoned his party to sit as an independent in protest against Redford's leadership.
Since then associate minister Donna Kennedy-Glans quit cabinet to sit as an independent.
- Premier Alison Redford faces another resignation from Alberta Tory caucus
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"It was disappointing to hear that she made that choice," said McCormick.
Several other MLAs are considering the same move and held a secret meeting to talk about it.
More MLAs to follow?
"It is speculation and I would be playing into that speculation other than to comment I've heard the same speculation you have," said McCormick.
Edmonton MLA Matt Jeneroux is among those deciding on his future with the party.
"There's definitely been things that have concerned me in the last little while with the premier's leadership and it's stuff I needed a lot of answers to," he said.
"And each caucus meeting I get more answers, [but] it's still up in the air for me."
Redford was roundly criticized for billing taxpayers $45,000 for her trip last year to South Africa for the memorial service for Nelson Mandela. Earlier this month, she agreed to foot the bill herself, but only after weeks of uproar during which more of her travel expenses came under scrutiny.
Redford also announced she would repay $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.
Despite the damage control, it might be too late for the premier.
"It's kinda hard to imagine what the path to resurrection looks like for Alison Redford right now," said pollster Janet Brown.
Next few weeks to be crucial, says pollster
She says the next few weeks will be crucial. After Thursday, MLAs return to their constituencies for two weeks and will most likely discuss the leadership crisis with their constituents.
Brown predicts there could be more defections early next month.
"That's when you may see a couple of them say, 'My constituents told me to leave and I'm leaving,'" she said.
While party brass are convinced the new work plan will resolve the premier's leadership problems, the plan also includes a strategy to deal with disgruntled party members.
"Not only with the leader, but ongoing communication with our membership, members of caucus, because they're part of our membership as well."
McCormick says he's going to meet with Redford later in the week to iron out some of the details of their new plan.
- The premier's trip to Chicago was a four-day trip, not a one-day trip as originally reported. It also included a stop in Toronto and the total estimated cost for airfare, transportation and meals was $18,205.Mar 18, 2014 9:19 PM MT