CBC Investigates exposed Redford’s sense of entitlement in 2014

A look back at the stories the CBC Edmonton Investigative Unit uncovered in 2014.

Premier’s private penthouse, fake passengers on government planes among stories

Alison Redford stepped down as premier in March. (Bryan Labby/CBC)

The document was political dynamite but we had to ensure it was legitimate. And to do that, we had to know the person leaking it to us was real.

Which is how we came to be parked outside a Tim Hortons on a Saturday morning in late July, waiting for a source we had only ever spoken with over the phone.

Satisfied the leaked internal auditor general’s report, and our source, were legitimate, we published and broadcast the story of how former premier Alison Redford’s staff had booked fake passengers on government planes so she could fly with a chosen entourage.

The “fakes on a plane” story was one of a string of original stories CBC Investigates, CBC Edmonton’s investigative unit, produced in 2014 about Redford’s sense of entitlement, and the “aura of power,” a phrase coined by Alberta’s auditor general, which allowed it to develop.

In early 2014, it seems many people had heard the rumour a private penthouse apartment was being constructed for Redford in the provincial Federal Building, under extensive renovation near the legislature.

We found a source with direct knowledge of the penthouse who told us how to craft a freedom of information request that would capture the documents needed to expose the secret penthouse.

When the government finally released the documents to us, the story of what became known as Redford’s “Skypalace” made national headlines. Under pressure from within her own caucus, Redford had resigned as premier the week before the Skypalace documents were made public.

Two weeks later, more public outrage after we broke the story of how Redford had flown her daughter on 50 government flights, including two long weekends in Jasper.

Travel scout

On June 25, we rolled out two stories that exposed yet more largesse with public money.

The first revealed the premier’s office had employed a “travel scout” who travelled the world in advance of Redford to ensure the logistics for the premier’s visits - from hotel accommodations to restaurants to limos - were up to standards.

The second story revealed Redford’s former executive assistant, Ryan Barberio, had been given a lucrative, all-expenses paid government job in Denver.

Redford’s questionable use of public resources resulted in scrutiny from both the auditor general and the RCMP. In November, we obtained a leaked memo that revealed Alberta’s top prosecutor had concluded Redford could face criminal charges based on an assessment of what the auditor general had uncovered.

As in previous years, part of our investigative work focused on justice issues in Alberta.

Critics questioned the judgement of Kim Armstrong, Alberta's deputy attorney general, after we revealed how she had personally overseen an investigation, while head of internal discipline at the Edmonton Police Service, in which there was an attempt to keep racist emails secret.

An internal Alberta Justice memo revealed what legal critics said was bias on the part of Justice deputy minister Tim Grant and by Armstrong. The memo, written by Grant and signed on his behalf by Armstrong, incorrectly told prosecutors their job was to get convictions.

The revelation that Edmonton police officer Mike Wasylyshen had been promoted to sergeant - despite a troubling disciplinary and criminal record - caused national outrage, especially among the aboriginal community.

These were only a sampling of the more than 50 investigative stories CBC Investigates produced in 2014. In 2015, expect to see more stories that hold public officials and institutions to account.

Send all tips in confidence to cbcinvestigates@cbc.ca