Stelmach to miss Alberta Day at Olympics

EDMONTON — Alberta Premier Ed Stelmach was forced to miss his own party at the Vancouver Olympics after a day that played out like the comedy movie “Planes, Trains and Automobiles.”

EDMONTON — Alberta Premier Ed Stelmach was forced to miss his own party at the Vancouver Olympics after a day that played out like the comedy movie “Planes, Trains and Automobiles.”

Stelmach woke up before dawn Wednesday to catch a plane from Edmonton to Vancouver, but the host of Alberta Day at the Olympics was stymied when his government aircraft couldn’t take off because of fog.

The premier then was driven to Calgary where the weather was better to board another aircraft only to face an air travel traffic jam. The long lineup of flight departures at Calgary International Airport finally forced Stelmach to abandon his trip.

Several cabinet ministers who were already in Vancouver were told to fill in for the premier at the Alberta Day events.

Stelmach ended up sending a video message to be played during the festivities at B.C. Place, which were expected to draw tens of thousands of people.

Alberta is spending $7 million on promotions during the Olympics, including a 30-minute concert before the medal presentations Wednesday night.

The schedule of performers included country music star Paul Brandt, DJ Jay Mak and The Plain Janes.

Earlier in the week Stelmach said the Alberta events would be a “huge opportunity” to advertise and talk about the province.

Six rail coaches decorated with the Alberta brand have been running from Jasper and Banff to the Olympics as part of a promotional campaign.

Alberta’s opposition parties say the number of cabinet ministers and government aides travelling to Vancouver during the Olympics has turned the promotional campaign into a junket.

“It’s a taxpayer-funded junket and I’d really like to see a clear accounting when they get back,” said New Democrat Leader Brian Mason, who chuckled when he heard that Stelmach couldn’t get out of Alberta to attend his own party.

Liberal Opposition Leader David Swann said he doesn’t believe most Albertans support the government spending money in this way.

“We have to be business-like about these things, but where’s the return on investment?” Swann said.

“What are the indicators that show $7 million is going to be returned to Albertans? I don’t see it.”

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