Alberta government plane fleet finally sold
Three of four government aircraft sold for $6.1 million
Three of the Alberta government’s four aircraft have been sold to a North Dakota charter company for $6.1 million, about $600,000 over the minimum amount sought by the government.
“We promised we would sell the planes,” Premier Jim Prentice told reporters in Calgary Thursday after a speech. “Most have sold at higher than the asking price, so this is dollars back to Alberta citizens.”
Fargo Jet Centre Inc. of Fargo, North Dakota, was the successful bidder for the three Beechcraft King Air planes.
A 1985 DeHavilland Dash 8-103 did not sell. Prentice said it will likely be offered for sale again through tender.
“I don't believe the Alberta government needs a fleet of planes,” Prentice told reporters, adding that when ministers need to travel to rural Alberta, they can use charter flights.
“That is done sparingly, so we don't think it justifies owning a fleet,” he said.
The fleet has been a source of scandal for the ruling Progressive Conservative party for decades, with well-documented personal and political abuse by Tory politicians, most especially by former premiers Ralph Klein and Alison Redford.
In 2005, an Edmonton Journal investigation revealed the planes flew empty hundreds of times between Edmonton and Calgary as Klein, and members of his caucus, essentially used the planes like a personal taxi service. The Journal investigation also revealed that at least one lobbyist and a Tory riding association president flew on the planes.
More recently, a CBC News investigation revealed Redford had flown her daughter on 50 government flights, including for two holiday long weekends in Jasper. She also used government aircraft for trips to Vancouver and Scottsdale, Arizona, when she could have flown commercial.
A review by Alberta’s auditor general also revealed a scheme in which fake passengers were booked on government flights so that Redford could fly alone with a chosen entourage. Redford resigned her seat in the legislature the day before the auditor general issued his report.
The CBC revelations resulted in an RCMP investigation of Redford’s use of the planes but the investigation produced no charges.
NDP Leader Rachel Notley said the planes may be off the government's hands, but cabinet ministers from Redford's administration still shoulder some of the blame for their abuse.
"I think they offloaded that particular breach in judgment by almost everyone in their cabinet onto Alison Redford, and the rest of them skated off scot-free," Notley said.