All of Alberta was abuzz last week when the provincial auditor general released his muchanticipated finding on the former Premier Alison Redford, and his inquest into her travel expenditures.
Auditor General Merwan Saher said in the report that the former premier and her office used public resources inappropriately.
“They consistently failed to demonstrate in the documents we examined that their travel expenses were necessary and a reasonable and appropriate use of public resources,” the report said.
“Premier Redford used public assets (aircraft) for personal and partisan purposes.”
The 44-page report outlined numerous infractions that the former premier and some sitting cabinet ministers used the government jets for partisan uses, and not their intended purposes of government business.
Three separate accounts had the former premier flying around the province to attend PC Party events.
The report also laid out that the former premier’s daughter flew on the government plane 50 times between September 2011 and March 2014. On four of those occasions, she was accompanied by a friend and twice she flew without Redford.
Saher said in a news conference that he, “did not find any documented government reason for Premier Redford’s daughter’s travel.”
A trip to India and Switzerland to shore up support for trade to and from Alberta, was originally estimated at just over $131,000, but the report said that full disclosure of all expenses on the trip put the final total closer to $450,000.
The Alberta premier’s tesidence that Redford was supposedly having built in an old federal office building has a price tag for the architectural firm at $175,000 according to the report.
Current interim Leader of the PC Party and Premier of Alberta Dave Hancock said in a press conference hours after the release of the report that the government would do more to ensure that this type of behaviour was not repeated.
“While we have measures in place to prevent the inappropriate use of public resources, the findings of this report make it clear that we can and must do better,” said. “Albertans deserve nothing less than the highest standard of ethical behavior from their public servants.
“Our government accepts all six of the auditor general’s recommendations, and we will take immediate action to implement them fully.”
Wildrose Party MLA Kerry Towle said that the government will being using the former premier as a scapegoat, to deflect the problems the report laid out.
Towle said that the whole PC caucus has the burden to pay now because no member of the PC Party stood up to the former premier.
“Ms. Redford might make for a convenient scapegoat, but the fact is, not a single (PC Caucus member) had the guts or the integrity to stand up to her,” she said.
Doug Horner the minister of Finance and president of the Treasury Board portfolio is in charge of the government aircraft services.
“What’s done here is identified serious problems, and that the finance minister needs to go. If you actually follow the board guidelines, the treasury board has guidelines for how travel should be done and approved, the cabinet, the executive council, and the Ministry of Finance and Treasury Board are the check and balance to anybody going off the rails in spending. None of them did their job, especially Mr. Horner,” Towle said.
Towle called for the resignation of Horner numerous times during her press conference Thursday morning.
MLA Deron Bilous of the Alberta NDP, said that the report further justifies a full public inquiry.
“This is typical Tory behaviour and it’s time it ended. The PCs have become so comfortable spending public dollars on themselves that they’re not even covering their tracks anymore.”
Hancock instructed the Justice minister to ask the RCMP to investigate the matter.
Minister of Justice Jonathan Denis said in a press conference that he has forwarded the report and its attachments to the RCMP.
“Any investigation that the RCMP does will be fully independent of my office,” he said. “Should the RCMP require legal advice on its investigation, I have arranged for prosecutors with the Ontario attorney general’s office to exclusively work on this matter. This will further ensure a fully independent investigation and remove any perception of conflict of interest.”
Redford resigned as premier of Alberta on March 19 and resigned as a MLA last Wednesday.