EDMONTON — Premier Alison Redford’s executive assistant is billing Alberta taxpayers more than $200 a night to stay at one of Edmonton’s ritziest hotels, according to government records.
Travel receipts posted online indicate that Brad Stables has billed the province more than $9,000 to stay 42 nights at the Fairmont Hotel Macdonald since he assumed the job last spring.
Most nights, it cost $201.06 to put him up in the provincial capital, although the bill last Oct. 29 was $399 without explanation.
Redford’s spokeswoman, Neala Barton, said in an email that the Edmonton hotel tab is good value for money, given that Stables lives in Calgary and that the province has a cut-rate deal at the hotel.
“(Stables) calls the Calgary area home, so never charges the taxpayer for accommodations when he is in Calgary,” wrote Barton.
“When he assists the premier in Edmonton, he requires accommodation.
“When the legislature isn’t sitting, (Stables) spends significantly less time in Edmonton, meaning it’s unlikely taxpayers would receive value for money were he to acquire an apartment in the city and receive a standard housing allowance.”
Stables’ charges reflect high-end hotels on the road as well, including $1,304 charged to taxpayers for a three-night stay at a conference at the Chateau Lake Louise in November, with the base room fee at $412 a night.
Redford has been under fire from critics — and even from a member of her own caucus — for lavish spending, including $45,000 to fly her and Stables to South Africa for Nelson Mandela’s funeral in December.
Stables alone billed taxpayers almost $20,000 to fly first class to and from South Africa.
By comparison, Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil went on the same trip as Redford for under $1,000.
Barton stressed that it’s key for government leaders to have assistants with them.
“Among other things, this assistant helps with logistics on the ground, co-ordinates meetings and phone calls, and ensures that security is informed about the premier’s plans and movements,” she wrote.
Redford has apologized for the large South Africa travel bill and has said if she had known the price, she would not have gone.
She has said that while her staff didn’t follow travel protocol, she takes responsibility for the affair. However, she has refused to pay back any of the $45,000, noting she was on government business at the request of the prime minister.
Fuel was added to that fire by the recent public release of Alberta government salaries.
It was revealed that Redford’s chief of staff, Farouk Adatia, makes $316,000 a year compared with the maximum $172,000 a year for the chief of staff to U.S. President Barack Obama.
Redford’s government has been negotiating lean wage deals with doctors and teachers and has been trying to do the same with frontline government workers, saying Albertans must “live within our means” to balance the budget.
Wildrose finance critic Rob Anderson said the Stables hotel plan shows Redford’s team is out of touch with working Albertans.
“In most galaxies when you get a job out of town you pay for your own housing,” said Anderson.
“I’m not quite sure why he couldn’t cover those charges himself.
“They (the Tories) don’t care about taxpayer dollars. They spend whatever the hell they want and taxpayers can just suck it up.”
The chorus of critics extended this week to one of Redford’s own backbenchers, Steve Young.
Young told The Calgary Herald that the $45,000 South Africa bill is still “the topic of conversation” in Redford’s Progressive Conservative caucus, and that he’s not happy with it.
He said the outlay doesn’t reflect party values.
Young declined further interviews Wednesday.
Redford’s and her caucus meet Thursday morning in Edmonton.