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Dallas says expenses are cost of doing business

Flights to Asia and Europe and a $1,230 Calgary hotel bill were among the expenses claimed by Red Deer South MLA Cal Dallas over six months this year.

On Wednesday, the government released hundreds of pages of photocopied receipts for its cabinet ministers from May to September 2012 as part of its efforts to be transparent for taxpayers.

In the six-month period, Dallas, the minister of International and Intergovernmental Relations, submitted 84 pages of receipts that were mostly for airplane tickets, hotels, parking, the odd meal, mileage and taxi cabs.

“It’s important to be prudent with our expenses but I believe we carefully followed the guidelines in place,” said Dallas. “I am comfortable with the expenses that incurred in the course of doing that business.”

Dallas had a $1,232.72 bill for a two-night stay at the Hotel Arts in Calgary for Stampede events and caucus meetings in July. Dallas said he was required to be in Calgary for two early mornings and he participated in events through to the evening.

On the second night, Dallas spoke at an engagement. The next morning, he was scheduled to fly to Saskatoon out of Calgary.

“As I gauged how practical it would be to do that and I determined that it was best to stay the night in Calgary,” said Dallas.

Dallas said the rooms were likely inflated a lot because of the Stampede and he did not know the cost of the accommodation.

“That was the cost if you were going to stay in Calgary that night,” said Dallas, noting he frequently drives back to Red Deer after night meetings and returns the next morning for more meetings.

The documents show mileage claims for at least a dozen Red Deer-to-Calgary and Red Deer-to-Edmonton trips from May to September. The government pays 50 cents per kilometre.

There was the odd receipt for food and beverages, including two glasses of Crown Royal ($13.50) at a restaurant in Quebec and a bottle of cabernet sauvignon ($48) was charged to his bill at a restaurant in Edmonton. Among his meals, Dallas claimed a $179 meal at Cafe Select in Edmonton for five people and a $384 bill at Wildflower Restaurant in Edmonton for six people. Dallas also ate at Dairy Queen, Pizza 73 and Wendy’s.

Dallas said he is not sure whether he or one of his guests consumed the alcohol in those two occasions. Dallas said he is very comfortable with the new expense disclosure policy where the receipts are posted online.

“What you won’t see is any alcohol receipts,” said Dallas. “At this point forward, if my guests want to consume alcohol I am paying for that out of pocket. That’s the bottom line.”

Among his more costly trips was his trip to Europe for the World Heavy Oil that cost taxpayers $35,436.28 for eight days in September. Dallas was expected to stay for two weeks but cut the trip short because of former premier Peter Lougheed’s death. His original plane ticket cost $9,414 and he incurred a $2,367 penalty for changing his flight. The trip was originally budgeted for $42,000.

Dallas promoted Alberta’s trade and investment opportunities during his mission to China and South Korea in June. The price tag on the trip was $37,932.14.

Photocopied receipts of the claims were posted online in the Alberta Legislature Library catalogue. Under the new expense policy, all travel and expense disclosure will be available online every two months. From January to September, Dallas’s international trips, including to the United States, cost taxpayers roughly $122,000. That total included travel, accommodation, meals, hosting receptions and other expenses.

crhyno@reddeeradvocate.com

 

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