Airplane scandal takes off as Tory support, fundraising effort nose dives

Air Alison RedfordYesterday’s Speech from the Throne was old news as scandal erupted today over Premier Alison Redford’s alleged inappropriate use of government-owned airplanes.

Premier Alison Redford
Premier Alison Redford

After facing criticism over her $45,000 trip to South Africa and a $9,200 trip from Palm Springs, Ms. Redford struggled to control the story today by announcing plans to pay $3,100 for costs associated with five other fights on government airplanes. These new flights include four where her daughter’s friend traveled for free and a fifth to Vancouver, where the premier apparently attended her uncle’s funeral.

On March 22, 2013, Ms. Redford traveled on a government plane with her daughter, a political assistant and a member of her security detail from Calgary to Vancouver. In the public flight manifests, the purpose of the trip is listed as “attend meeting(s) with government officials.” If Ms. Redford was attending to government business in Vancouver as the manifest states, it is unclear why, almost a year later, she has decided to pay the costs of the flight.

Doug Horner
Doug Horner

The government airplane, and presumably its government-employed pilots, parked at Vancouver International Airport until Monday, March 25, 2013, when fight records show they returned to Alberta with the premier, her daughter and her entourage.

The premier has asked Finance minister Doug Horner to “find greater cost efficiencies” in government travel expenses, and has also referred the matter to Auditor General Merwan Saher.

Involving the Auditor General accomplishes two important public relations objectives: first, it allows the government to deflect questions from the media until the AG reports back, and second, it means the opposition cannot ask questions about Ms. Redford’s travel expenses in Question Period until the AG reports back.

As Ms. Redford appears to be the only MLA involved in this scandal, it is unclear who else the Auditor General will investigate.

Readers of this blog will remember that in February 2013, Ms. Redford removed Tourism minster Christine Cusanelli from cabinet after it was revealed she had used government funds to fly her family to the 2012 London Summer Olympics. Ms. Cusanelli later repaid the costs, but now sits in the backbenches.

The airplane scandal comes to light as a new poll shows Alberta’s long-governing Progressive Conservatives at an all-time low of 25% support province-wide and Ms. Redford with a 20% approval rating.

Meanwhile, leaked emails show Tory organizers were forced to delay the launch of the new “PC Legacy Fund” after it failed to sign up enough PC MLAs and party officials to contribute to the fundraising program.

This latest turbulence begs the question: can Ms. Redford’s leadership survive, and, who stands to gain the most if she crashes and burns?

26 thoughts on “Airplane scandal takes off as Tory support, fundraising effort nose dives”

  1. We never had this kind of problem when Ed Stelmach was Premier. Bring back Honest Ed! Bring back honesty!

  2. This infuriates me. Redford is acting like the taxpayers are her personal purse. I’ve worked for the alberta government for 22 years and the government is now demanding I take a pay freeze but she is able to use the government plane for her personal travel. Makes me so mad I’m going to vote for Danielle Smith’s Wildrosers. Time to throw the bums out.

  3. Right. Government workers have a pay freeze for 7 out of 8 years, while the Premier uses the government plane as her personal jet. We are struggling to pay our bills, lady! Time for some reflection, fellow Albertans!

  4. Since government workers, including management cannot allow family, friends or business clients to travel with them in a government vehicle, lease or rental because of liability and insurance issues per the Gov. Risk Management folks. How does Redford do what she ???
    She is handing WildRosie the next election.

  5. They can’t even come up with an original fund raising idea – the Legacy Fund is just a copy of the Wildrose 2016 Club – #pcaafail

  6. Hi Dave, thank you for the outstanding citizen journalism you practice on this site. I don’t usually agree with your politics, but when it comes to Redford’s escapades, I think we can all agree something needs to change.
    I am curious about your thoughts regarding the following scenario: I find it unlikely the PC apparatus are going to allow the ship to go down without a fight. Their self-preservation instinct is unparalleled within the Canadian political establishment.
    If the PC brass manage to cast Redford aside, and the party goes to a leadership contest, do you think there would potentially be a groundswell of support from both parties for Danielle Smith to come to the helm, and to merge the two parties under a “Conservative Party of Alberta” banner?
    We’ve already seen this happen federally, and it wasn’t that long ago. To me it’s a win-win for the PCs and Wildrose: the Wildrose keeps Smith as Premier, and further moderates their image. The PCs survive, and prevent a thorough airing of their dirty laundry if a new government were to emerge. It may also save the jobs of a few PC MLAs who otherwise might find themselves unemployed.
    Essentially nothing and everything changes.
    I’d love to hear your thoughts and insights on this.
    Keep up the good work!

  7. Why would Wildrose want to take on all the PC’s “dirty laundry” and other assorted baggage? Not to mention all the policy differences that were the reason for their split in the first place…

  8. Hi The Invisible Hand
    That’s a good point, and one I definitely pondered. A clean slate makes the most sense from a partisan perspective, and is no doubt the best thing for Alberta.
    But there a few realities in my mind that oppose this logic. I wonder how strong Wildrose support really is, and how much of the recent uptake is just a visceral response to the behavior of the Premier? I’m not convinced there is a much room for growth beyond their southern bedrock if Redford is gone.
    Secondly, the recent comments attributed to Steve Young where he couldn’t imagine having a beer with Redford, but “he could share a frosty one with Wildrose member of the legislature Ian Donovan”, to me is a less-than-subtle way of signalling to WR that “we’re not that different you and I”.
    Add this to the moderation (the media’s characterization) of the WR playbook over the past few years, and the differences between the two entities might not be so great after all.
    Sure, the PCs will bleed support to the Liberals, NDs and Alberta Party if the PCs and WR entertained a merger; they’d likely also lose WR supporters, to where I don’t know.
    However, as I mentioned earlier, Alberta conservatives are pragmatic, and a merger may ultimately be the best way of ensuring they remain in power for another generation.

  9. The Wildrose separated from the PCs, demarcating the true blue conservatives from whatever the PCs have become. They didn’t separate because of Redford. So even if Redford is turfed by her party, I don’t see there being much support for a merger on the Wildrose side.

  10. How long until PC MLA’s start speaking out against Redford? Steve Young was the first, where are the rest? I’d be fired from my job if I did what Redford did. They only reason she is paying for those flight is because she got caught. She should do the honourable thing and resign immediately.

  11. Hi Robert Churchill, I think that self-preservation instinct is going to kick in soon. Maybe a merger makes sense, probably not, but it could happen whether the PCs want it to or not when MLAs start crossing the floor (again). Interesting times.

  12. What is striking about this storm of negativity is that it is based on only a couple of examples of questionable travel expense, when there have been far more costly trips that haven’t even really hit the press yet. I for one am waiting for the Premier’s explanation as to why she needs to run up 5 figure travel expenses to attend the Davos, Switzerland economic soiree every year, not as a presenter/panelist, but AS AN ATTENDEE! (although, in her defense, her attendance this year did enable her to engage Al Gore (presumably during one of the coffee breaks) on the whole climate change thing).

  13. Let’s examine what is developing with a view towards the unintended consequences as we come nearer to an election. The greater the focus on the Premier’s poor behaviour, the further the attention moves away from the PC Party and the manner in which this province has been governed for more than four decades. The more space that is created between Redford and the Party itself by pinning her alone to the wall (even though it appears she has earned it), the more it seems likely to backfire for those who want real change. Many insiders will be satisfied to wait it out, replace her, only to continue PC business as usual. New energy will be spent by various others trying to dent the armour of the next leader. The line up of candidates for the PC top job is endless, especially given that many people develop some type of weird amnesia at the polls. The circus sideshow appeases the masses with a temporary distraction away from real problems. There is no compelling reason for change in PC policies. Hear that? That’s the sound of hand clapping in the back rooms. It is an old game. They are very good at it.

  14. Who stand to gain the most? Well of course the Wildrose Party. The less they actually have to talk, act, and actually show their real colours the better. They can stand back and get Albertan’s so mad at Redford that they’ll actually not care and vote WRP. How did the WRP crash at the last election? Their candidates got cocky and actually started to open their mouths. Remember this is a party that actually needed a good conduct bond just to get the extremists (which they attract) to shut up. The more The PC’s screw this up the more the WRP can afford to keep quiet and smile like the Cheshire Cat.

    It sure would be nice when people talk about an alternative to the Redford PC’s that people actually meant a real change. Going from PC to WRP is like saying I want a real change in my menu so I’m switching from McDonalds to Burger King.

  15. I’m voting left – Liberal or NDP. I’m more in line with Liberal ideology, but prefer some of the NDP leaders (locally).

  16. Scandal’s are not exclusive to PC ‘s, they are also the property of former PC’s the Wildrose Party members.

    It is time for voters to consider and give thanks to the former opposition party – LPCA who have worked tirelessly over the years for ALL Albertans in the Legislature.

  17. I’d like to see the defeat of the Tories but Wildrose is much worse. The one correct thing that Redford has done is to amortize capital spending. Smith, mimicking Ralph Klein, claims that our grandchildren will end up paying for projects we start today. That’s crapola. We are paying and so will they for hospitals and schools and roads that several generations will use, and that is only proper. With such retrograde notions, Smith, who is also an even more nutcase privatizer than Redford, will destroy our social programs and our infrastructure. The alternative, if the Liberals and NDP will not form a coalition (and the Alberta Party was stillborn and stands for nothing except internal democracy, which is not a platform for non-members, meaning almost every voter) is strategic voting. Changealberta.ca will rise like the phoenix for the next election. We were correct in 93 percent of our predictions of which “progressive” party (Liberal, NDP, Alberta Party, or Green)would have the most votes in “winnable” constituencies, and will no doubt get things right again next time.

  18. I do believe that anyone looking to the WR as the saviours from the PCAA will be bitterly disappointed. As far as merger, it will never happen. The WR is a right-wing spin off of the PC party whose members essentially created the problems experienced by the current government in terms of infrastructure debt in the name of provincial surpluses. It is quite comical that the WR repeatedly attacks the PC government for borrowing to build long term projects. That is fundamentally how life works. Unless every WR party member and MLA bought their respective homes up front in cash, it would seem their perspective on capital spending is hypocritical. Finally, for those who were unhappy with the budget cuts last year, what do you think the WR would have done? They aren’t exactly campaigning on opening the province’s bank accounts to social programs.

  19. TO daveberta.ca
    Even with support for Redford dropping, I hope the conservatives don’t have a leadership review any time soon. Let me explain why. Her support and, also, conservative support is dropping. Seems to me any time they change leaders Albertans choose to ‘forget’ what all has happened. It’s as if a change in leader is going to totally change how the party operates. If the conservatives don’t have a leadership review, maybe all support will keep dropping and Albertans will finally remember what all the conservatives have done. AND VOTE FOR A DIFFERENT PARTY!!
    I do believe there is a lot more ‘skeletons in conservative members closets”. Those just haven’t been found yet. I think the Auditor General Merwan Saher should be investigating all the conservatives..
    “AP March 5, 2014 at 5:41 pm” has it exactly right. “…The greater the focus on the Premier’s poor behaviour, the further the attention moves away from the PC Party… The more space that is created between Redford and the Party itself by pinning her alone to the wall the more it seems likely to backfire for those who want real change. Many insiders will be satisfied to wait it out, replace her, only to continue PC business as usual…The line up of candidates for the PC top job is endless, especially given that many people develop some type of weird amnesia at the polls”.
    Alberta Auditor General Merwan Saher appears to have good credentials for the position,
    But when you look at everything, I seriously wonder about him. Will he do the right thing???
    “ Tuesday, July 09, 2013 Critics call out Alberta’s Tory government after auditor general’s report on colleges and universities Auditor General audited Campus Alberta and suggested that confusion abounds. First posted: Tuesday, July 09, 2013 02:44 PM MDT | Updated: Wednesday, July 10, 2013 07:24 AM MDT
    “New Democrat MLA David Eggen said The Auditor General said that the best minds in his office couldn’t understand the PCs’ new ways of reporting on their budget, so how are everyday families supposed to understand how our money is being spent.”
    more ‘skeletons in conservative members closets.

  20. daveberta.ca Even with support for Redford dropping, I hope the conservatives don’t have a leadership review any time soon. Let me explain why. Her support and, also, conservative support is dropping. Seems to me any time they change leaders Albertans choose to ‘forget’ what all has happened. It’s as if a change in leader is going to totally change how the party operates. If the conservatives don’t have a leadership review, maybe all support will keep dropping and Albertans will finally remember what all the conservatives have done. AND VOTE FOR A DIFFERENT PARTY!!
    I do believe there is a lot more ‘skeletons in conservative members closets’. Those just haven’t been found yet. I think the Auditor General Merwan Saher should be investigating all the conservatives..
    “AP March 5, 2014 at 5:41 pm” has it exactly right. “…The greater the focus on the Premier’s poor behaviour, the further the attention moves away from the PC Party… The more space that is created between Redford and the Party itself by pinning her alone to the wall the more it seems likely to backfire for those who want real change. Many insiders will be satisfied to wait it out, replace her, only to continue PC business as usual…The line up of candidates for the PC top job is endless, especially given that many people develop some type of weird amnesia at the polls”.
    Alberta Auditor General Merwan Saher appears to have good credentials for the position,
    But when you look at everything, I seriously wonder about him. Will he do the right thing???
    “ Tuesday, July 09, 2013 Critics call out Alberta’s Tory government after auditor general’s report on colleges and universities Auditor General audited Campus Alberta and suggested that confusion abounds. First posted: Tuesday, July 09, 2013 02:44 PM MDT | Updated: Wednesday, July 10, 2013 07:24 AM MDT
    “New Democrat MLA David Eggen said The Auditor General said that the best minds in his office couldn’t understand the PCs’ new ways of reporting on their budget, so how are everyday families supposed to understand how our money is being spent.”
    I do believe there is a lot more ‘skeletons in conservative members closets. Will the Auditor General find them, or be ‘allowed’ to find them!?!?

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