*******Alberta PCs united in blaming Alison Redford for expenses scandal
Alison Redford's travel expenses scrutinized
Alison Redford's travel expenses scrutinized
"It was her own personal choices that led to her demise," says party president.
By: Linda Diebel Canada, Published on Sat Aug 09 2014
Jeff McIntosh / THE CANADIAN PRESS
Alison Redford's fall from grace following an outcry over her expenses has seen her utterly abandoned by her former PC colleauges.
*******The cartoon in the Edmonton Journal sums up perfectly the rush to throw former Alberta premier Alison Redford under the bus.
It shows a political handler with a big moustache and a PC Alberta button holding a hand puppet with a string of pearls and a document that says, "Redford Legacy."
Meanwhile, the party handler is saying: "I had nothing to do with it. I was just lending a hand."
Now that the former premier has been well and truly dispatched, Alberta political science professor Doreen Barrie says it’s "very sad and disappointing" to see that she seems to be held solely accountable by so many Progressive Conservatives.
"They are treating her badly for following behaviour set down by her predecessors," says Barrie, who teaches at the University of Calgary. Much of the scandal that took down Redford is over misuse of government aircraft: a practice criticized under the late premier Ralph Klein in 2004.
PC party president Jim McCormick said in a statement: "It was her own personal choices that led to her demise."
Finance Minister Doug Horner, who oversees Alberta’s $9.3-million-a-year fleet of airplanes, says he’s only the "booking agent."
Even an auditor-general coming from a Canadian tradition of letting the facts speak for themselves was pointed in his personal criticism of Redford. "You can’t write a rule for everything," wrote Merwan Saher. "Ultimately, what’s needed is principles."
Former Conservative cabinet minister Jim Prentice stood out for saying Redford "did the right and honourable thing" by resigning her seat of Calgary-Elbow on Wednesday. Prentice, formerly one of Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s key ministers, is running to replace Redford at a September leadership convention.
Most political observers interviewed by the Star didn’t feel there was any excuse for Redford’s excesses and saw her downfall as stemming from a sense of entitlement.
Barrie believes the former premier got a rough ride. "But that doesn’t mean Redford didn’t use very poor judgment or wasn’t arrogant," the Calgary professor adds.
What happened, she says, is that after 43 years of PC majorities, Redford got caught in a rapidly changing political landscape. There’s now a viable opposition in the Wildrose Party, and Albertans expect more accountability. That simply wasn’t the case in the past.
Political consultant Robin Sears agrees with Alberta economist Tom Flanagan that "these are political, not legal issues. This is a foolish inflation of one into the other."
Redford took over as premier in October 2011, coming in amid high expectations as the province’s first female premier and a resumé that included work in Africa for the governments of Canada and Australia and for the Commonwealth. Her fall — she resigned as premier in March and as an MLA this week — was fast and stunning.
Saher handed out tough details this week in his report, a document requested of the provincial auditor by Redford before she resigned as premier.
Saher reported Thursday that Redford "used public resources inappropriately" and "consistently failed to document which travel expenses were necessary and a reasonable and appropriate use of government resources." She was also involved in a plan to convert the 11th floor of a federal building in Edmonton into an apartment for personal use.
In the wake of the auditor-general’s report, Premier Dave Hancock said he would ask the RCMP to investigate.
Saher’s report exposed the practice of "block booking," in which fake names were registered for flights and apparently cancelled at the last minute so that the premier would have more privacy. Often a second government plane left at the same time as Redford’s almost empty aircraft — with every seat filled.
Other incidents show:
Staffers approved each other’s expense accounts. Saher said that they felt "trapped … the premier’s the premier."
Sears says that’s a widespread practice: "On the question of staff signing for bosses’ expenses, show me a (chief of staff) who denies doing it and I’ll show you someone with either dangerously poor memory and/or an unbelievable fibber."
Redford and two senior staffers flew to London for a weekend when two days of planned travel to Afghanistan were cancelled during an India/Switzerland mission in January. There was no cost assessment of the London layover by Redford’s staffers. (In London, they paid for their own meals and hotels.)
Redford’s daughter Sarah, now 12, flew 50 times on government aircraft from September 2011 to March 2014. On two of these trips, she flew without her mother and four times with friends.
The issue of Redford’s child is a sensitive one among some political scientists, who point out that many — but not all — of Redford’s arrangements appear understandable for a mother.
"There are many issues here," says Barrie. "Gender is one of them."
She believes Redford may have been judged by a harsher standard than a male premier would have been.
After the party’s leadership convention in September, there won’t be a provincial election until 2016. As of late July, polls showed the PC party was lagging 15 points behind the Wildrose Party.
While many analysts believe there’s time to recover, Marc Henry, who heads the Alberta consulting firm, ThinkHQ, isn’t as convinced.
"They’re in a dangerous situation," he says. "(Redford) was like Godzilla, leaving a devastated Tokyo in her wake."
Alison Redford attending Bilderberg meeting!
Alison Redford attending Bilderberg meeting!
Alison Redford report: damning findings draw swift condemnation
PC Party calls former leader's misuse of taxpayer money 'disrespectful,' 'inappropriate'
Posted: Aug 07, 2014
Reaction from Albertans to the auditor general's report suggesting former premier Alison Redford used public money inappropriately has been swift and strong.
Former colleagues and regular Albertans have been taking aim at Redford since the report was made public Thursday morning. In it, Alberta Auditor General Merwan Saher said Redford used government planes for personal and partisan purposes and that her staff "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 blamed the misuse of public resources on an "aura of power" around the former premier and her office, as well as "the perception that the influence of the office should not be questioned."
Those findings have many taking aim at Redford and decrying the culture around her office.
Redford's own party, the Alberta Progressive Conservatives, denounced her actions as "disrespectful" and "inappropriate," with the party president announcing they would take steps to rectify several incidents flagged by the auditor general.
Jim McCormick said Thursday that the PC Party will pay back the $6,500 to cover off three times Redford used the government plane to attend PC Party events.
"Our heart and soul comes from our thousands of members from all walks of life across Alberta," he said. "The actions of our former leader have let down all these members who volunteer their own time and money to make this province a better place. This cannot, and will not, happen again."
PC MLAs, leadership hopefuls join outcry
Backbencher MLAs have also been speaking out, condemning the former premier but also working to separate her actions from those of the rest of the party.
"We do have a lot of people, including those in my riding, who are informed and reasonable and able to differentiate between the attitude and actions of one individual in government from the rest of us who work very hard to sustain the public trust in this age of heightened transparency and public accountability," said Teresa Woo-Paw, PC MLA for Calgary-Northern Hills.
"Young people in my riding that I have spoken to in the last few days are telling me, you know, she made the right decision [to resign]. This had to happen."
As well, PC Party leadership hopeful Ric McIver released a statement about the report in which he stressed the need to clean out the "rot at the top" of the government.
He also said he is willing to get rid of government planes if he is elected leader of the PC Party.
"This report raises serious questions about the value for money of government planes, and suggests that value has gone down," McIver said in the statement. "I am prepared to eliminate these planes and use commercial alternatives."
Another leadership hopeful, Jim Prentice, said he can't explain her actions but would expect legal repercussions if it's found she broke the law.
"I am disappointed by the results of the auditor general's report into the former premier's travel and use of government aircraft," Prentice wrote on his Facebook page. "No government official, nor the premier, is above the law. In the event that there is evidence of criminal wrongdoing, I would expect those actions to be met with the full force and weight of the law."
'Royals' parody mocks Redford entitlement
The flurry of scandals that had plagued the Redford PC's prompted one University of Calgary student to parody the government in a redo of Royals, the popular song by New Zealand singer Lorde.
In the video, Caitlyn Madlener, an intern with the Manning Centre — which bills itself as building Canada's conservative movement — mocks several of the government's scandals, including Redford's misuse of government jets.
"This is an issue that everyone can understand," Madlener said. "Everyone knows what it costs to fly places, how much it should cost and to see that it's costing 10 times that or 20 times that is really concerning to most Albertans when they want to see their taxpaying dollars being spent wisely."
The hard-hitting auditor general report found cases where Redford flew alone with her teen daughter and the girl's friends, as well as cases where her daughter flew by herself.
In all, Redford's daughter flew on the government plane 50 times between September 2011 and March 2014.
It was also booked for Redford to attend her uncle's funeral in Vancouver.*******