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Flight details disputed

EDMONTON — Alberta Premier Alison Redford faced accusations Tuesday she used a government plane for a party fundraiser — but her office said the flight was the result of a hectic day borne of tragedy.

The opposition Wildrose party released a manifest from Oct. 25, 2012, that showed Redford flying in from Edmonton to Grande Prairie with two cabinet ministers and her staff, and then flying out hours later with six of her caucus members back to Calgary.

Wildrose Leader Danielle Smith told the house during question period that the plane landed at 4:30 p.m., and flew out at 10 p.m.

“The (flight) manifest said (the plane) went to Grande Prairie for meetings with government officials,” said Smith. “However, at 5:30 p.m. that evening the PCs were hosting their Grande Prairie PC leaders dinner fundraiser,” said Smith.

One of the ministers who flew in with Redford was Wayne Drysdale, the MLA for Grande Prairie-Wapiti.

The other was Health Minister Fred Horne.

Horne told the house that they flew in to Grande Prairie to make an announcement on expansion of the local hospital.

However, when no evidence of a formal news conference could be located, Redford’s office said late Tuesday that the formal news conference was to have occurred that afternoon.

Redford’s office said plans changed when a minivan crashed into a school in St. Paul, killing a child.

Drysdale, then minister for infrastructure, went to the school and Redford held the government plane until he arrived back, causing the announcement to be made closer to the dinner.

Redford has been facing criticism for weeks over revelations she has used the government’s air fleet to fly family and friends around, to take a trip back from a vacation in Palm Springs, and to fly to a family funeral in Vancouver.

On Tuesday, the opposition also questioned Redford’s government over a Calgary Herald story that said since 2012 the premier flew on a government plane inside Alberta while another half-empty taxpayer-funded plane made the same trip within an hour of the premier’s takeoff time.

“We have the highest paid premier in the country, the highest paid cabinet in the country . . . (and) the largest and most expensive political staff in the country,” Smith told the house.

“And yet no one thought to do something as simple as to co-ordinate flights so that the taxpayer didn’t get shafted.”

Finance Minister Doug Horner said the issue is complex as the aircraft must accommodate multiple destinations and multiple cabinet ministers and their schedules.

Last week, Redford cancelled all out-of-province flights on government aircraft until the auditor general completes a review of whether the service provides value for money.

 
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