Alberta premier wants RCMP review of travel expenses, use of government aircraft
CALGARY — Alberta Premier Dave Hancock says he wants the RCMP to review travel expenses and the use of government aircraft.
Hancock says he will ask his justice minister to refer the matter to the Mounties for any investigation they consider appropriate.
The move comes ahead of the release of the auditor general’s report into government travel and hours after former premier Alison Redford resigned her seat in the legislature.
“The report identifies a number of areas of concern and I think in the interests of completeness and in the interests of the public being fully satisfied that everything appropriate has been done, that it’s appropriate to ask that certain issues in the report be investigated,” he said Wednesday in a teleconference with reporters.
Hancock refused to discuss details of the auditor’s report before it is released publicly.
But last week the CBC reported that a leaked copy found that passenger lists on government aircraft were altered so that then-premier Redford could fly alone. She has denied directing her office to make any changes.
Hancock said Redford did the honourable thing in resigning, but he is “extremely disappointed” in her actions.
In an opinion article published Wednesday in Postmedia newspapers, Redford, who has been sitting as a backbencher since the spring, acknowledges mistakes were made during her time as leader of the governing Progressive Conservatives.
“In hindsight, there were many things I would have done differently,” she wrote. “That said, I accept responsibility for all the decisions I have made.”
Jim McCormick, president of the PC party in Alberta, issued a statement that said Redford’s premiership “started off with such promise” but he added “it was her own personal choices that led to her demise.”
“She is alleged to have broken government rules, and taxpayer dollars were not treated with the dignity and respect they deserve. She has paid a personal and political price for her mistakes and we appreciate her decision to take responsibility for her actions,” he wrote.
“This circumstance won’t happen again.”
McCormick said the Progressive Conservative Association of Alberta “is more than one person.”
Redford resigned as premier in March after facing increased unrest within her caucus, fuelled by concerns over her leadership style and a $45,000 trip to South Africa for Nelson Mandela’s funeral.
Redford and her aide flew to Ottawa, where the premier joined the prime minister’s entourage. Her aide, however, took a commercial flight to South Africa. He and Redford returned to Alberta first class on another commercial flight so she could attend the swearing-in of her new cabinet.
She eventually paid back the money, but only after weeks of pressure and her repeated declarations that she would not.
Since she left office, she has faced increased criticism over her travel habits.
Last week, after the CBC report on the passenger lists, Redford issued a denial via Twitter. She said she had fully co-operated with Saher’s investigation and “would be surprised if these allegations are true.”
She also said “there was never any directive preventing others from flying on government aircraft when I was a passenger. In fact, on most occasions that I can recall, when I was on government flights, I travelled with other elected officials, public servants and staff.”
It’s expected that Saher’s full report will be released to members of the legislature and the public on Thursday.
“I will leave it to others to analyze and comment on the past. I am sure that I will be asked to weigh in, but I will respectfully decline,” Redford wrote in her opinion piece. “It is time to move forward.”
Trained as a lawyer, Redford indicated she will teach and resume work in international development and public policy.
There had been calls from within her own party to give up her Calgary-Elbow seat.
Thomas Lukaszuk, one of the men vying to become the next leader of Alberta’s Conservatives, had called for an emergency caucus meeting to discuss Redford’s continued membership in the party.
He said it is now time to move forward.
“It’s a new chapter for Alberta. I wish everyone involved all the best on future journeys. Now is time to focus on tomorrow in Alberta,” Lukaszuk said on Twitter.
Redford said her letter that she will not accept a transition allowance given to members of the legislature who leave their seats.
She concluded by thanking her friends and family.
“My family stood by me throughout and in the course of my political career there are some truly unique friends who have been volunteers and who have worked in my office,” she says.
“I thank each and every one of them for their friendship and loyalty in the face of some very difficult circumstances.”
Calls for an RCMP investigation into Redford’s use of government aircraft were almost immediate after the flight revelations in the auditor’s leaked report last week. Opposition Wildrose finance critic, Rob Anderson, was the most definitive when he said the public has an expectation that politicians who may have broken the law should be investigated.