Opposition to file complaint about taxpayer-funded retreat for Tories

The leaders of the Wildrose and Alberta Liberal parties say they will file an official complaint over a Tory retreat in Jasper, when the legislative session resumes next week.

EDMONTON — The leaders of the Wildrose and Alberta Liberal parties say they will file an official complaint over a Tory retreat in Jasper, when the legislative session resumes next week.

The $70,000 cost of the retreat for caucus members at the Jasper Park Lodge is being paid for by taxpayers.

The Conservatives say 25 candidates in the coming provincial election are also attending the retreat, but are paying their own way.

The opposition parties note that legislative expense guidelines state that caucus activities should be separate and distinct from party activities, particularly in election periods.

An election has not formally been called, but by law the vote must take place in March, April or May.

NDP Leader Brian Mason said he has no doubts the Tories are using the retreat to discuss the upcoming election.

“We are in a period right before an election, they are obviously talking about an election,” Mason said. “If they say otherwise I don’t think people should believe them.”

Wildrose Leader Danielle Smith admits that filing a complaint might be difficult as Speaker and retiring Tory MLA Ken Kowalski — who would be the one to rule on such a complaint — is taking part in the retreat as well.

“Well, that right there tells you, it’s pretty remarkable,” Smith said Thursday. “The Speaker’s office is supposed to be independent and a fair arbitrator, when he is also participating in a P.C. party retreat to be able to do some pre-election campaign planning.”