EDMONTON — Alberta Premier Alison Redford says she knew she broke the rules by flying her daughter around on government planes at taxpayers’ expense, but says those policies need to be reviewed to better accommodate her family.
“One of the reasons we’ve asked (the auditor general) to review the (travel) policies now is because we think it is important for issues to evolve,” Redford told the legislature Wednesday during question period.
“And I’ll tell you, quite frankly, one of the evolutions in this province is that you have a premier who has a 12-year-old daughter.
“Because of that we’re going to continue to balance everything we can to make sure that I am able to do my job to the best of my ability (and) that I can spend time with my family.”
Redford has been under fire for weeks for lavish spending.
It began last month with questions over a $45,000 trip to South Africa, but has morphed into revelations of other pricey trips and perks for the premier and her inner circle.
On Tuesday, Redford revealed that in the last year and a half she has flown her daughter Sarah and Sarah’s friends around on a government aircraft.
The premier said she now recognizes those trips were offside and has repaid the equivalent airfare, about $3,100. She also put a stop to all out-of-province trips on government aircraft until she hears from the auditor general.
One of those trips involved Redford taking Sarah on a government plane to Vancouver for a family funeral.
Opposition leaders reminded Redford Wednesday that the auditor general ruled almost a decade ago that while spouses can fly on government planes for government events, other family members are not allowed.
“Was (Redford) aware of this policy when she booked the trips for which she repaid the money?” NDP Leader Brian Mason asked Redford.
Yes, said Redford.
“We know what the auditor general said about government aircraft,” she said.
Picking up on Redford’s remarks, deputy premier Dave Hancock ignited shouts from the opposition when he said it might be time to open up the airplane seats to all family members of members of the legislature to honour “family values.”
“When you’re an MLA, a cabinet minister or a premier, one should not have to abandon their family to do their job,” said Hancock, shouting to be heard above the din.
“When a member of this government is travelling on government business on government aircraft and there’s an extra seat that you can take a family member along to participate with you, why would you not do that?
“Why would you not take the time with your family (and) involve your family in the public service that you’re doing? Set the example for your family in terms of how you give back to the community.”
Mason replied: “It’s the tale of two Albertas. One rule for this government and their cronies and another rule for the rest of us.”
He said it’s ludicrous for Redford to have to ask the auditor general to explain how to travel prudently and ethically on the public dime.
“Why,” he asked Redford, “do you have to depend on the auditor general to tell you what Albertans expect you to understand already,” he said.
Opposition members renewed calls Wednesday for Redford to repay the cost of the trip to South Africa to attend Nelson Mandela’s funeral.
Redford has refused, saying while she apologizes for the exorbitant price, it was government business.