Alberta keeping its government planes despite more questionable Redford spending
EDMONTON — Alberta Premier Dave Hancock says he won’t scrap the government’s fleet of airplanes despite new revelations of questionable use by his predecessor, Alison Redford.
The four turboprop planes are sometimes the best and only way for government officials to get into remote communities, Hancock told reporters Monday.
He declined to commit to finding out why Redford used government planes to take her daughter on two weekend trips to the mountain town of Jasper. Hancock said an investigation would not be a good use of money.
“If we’re going to divert all of our attention to run after every single piece that an opposition member wants to throw in the sky, and say, ’We assume this was nefarious, we assume that wasn’t government business,’ we wouldn’t be doing the business that Albertans want us to do,” Hancock asked.
The government gives ministers discretion and accountability to decide who should and shouldn’t fly on the aircraft, he added.
Opposition parties want the province to scrap the planes after the CBC reported earlier Monday that new flight records show the former premier took her pre-teen daughter, Sarah, on 50 flights.
Redford used government aircraft to fly with Sarah to Jasper for two weekends, including one in June 2013 as southern Albertans were still reeling over devastating floods.
The records simply list “meetings with government officials.”
The records also showed that as justice minister in 2008 she flew her nanny on a government plane.
Redford could not be reached for comment. She hasn’t done any interviews since resigning as premier almost a month ago amid escalating revelations of lavish spending on herself and her inner circle. She now sits as a backbencher, but has not been in the chamber since giving up the leader’s chair.
Shortly before her resignation, Redford admitted to flying her daughter and her daughter’s friend around on a handful of flights and paid back the equivalent airfares. She also admitted taking a government plane to a family funeral in Vancouver and bringing a plane in to fly her back from a Palm Springs vacation.
She also paid back $45,000 used to take her and her aide to Nelson Mandela’s funeral in December.
Before she resigned, Redford asked the auditor general to review the government’s flight program to see if it’s getting value for money.
That investigation is still ongoing.
Opposition members say regardless of the auditor general’s finding, the planes need to go because the Tories have shown they can’t operate them responsibly.
“If you look at other provincial governments, they’ve managed to do without having government aircraft,” said Wildrose Leader Danielle Smith.
“They do the lion’s share of their travel on commercial flights. On the occasional time they need a charter flight, they’ll be able to charter a plane.”
Liberal Leader Raj Sherman said the problem didn’t begin and end with Redford.
“Where is the accountability for the ministers who are managing the current fleet?” he asked.
“(Former) premier Redford is not the only one here who is a problem.”
The new flights also showed that Sandra Jansen, the anti-bullying minister, flew with her daughter on two government flights in February.
Jansen told the house she did so because there was an extra seat.
“It didn’t cost a dime extra for my daughter to travel on that flight,” Jansen told the house during question period.
“If it did I would happily pay the money back.”