Remember during the election campaign way back in April (seems like years ago now, doesn’t it?), Wildrose leader Danielle Smith tried to paint PC leader Alison Redford as someone who doesn’t like her own province. In fact, her exact words were “I think Ms. Redford doesn’t like Alberta all that much.”
I thought that sounded kind of stupid at the time, an attempt by Smith to make Redford appear to be a self-loathing Albertan, out of touch with the common Alberta schmuck.
Turns out, maybe Smith was right. I mean, just look at how much time Redford has spent outside the province, and you might be able to make the case that Redford really doesn’t like Alberta.
Redford, according to numbers in a Calgary Herald story, will by this month have racked up more than $267,000 in travel expenses this year alone — and this was an election year, where Redford was forced to actually stay home and visit the province.
Redford has just recently returned from the London Olympics, where I’m sure a visit by the premier of a western Canadian province during the biggest event in the world went entirely unnoticed. The estimated cost of Redford’s jaunt to Jolly Old England was a whopping $84,000.
On Tuesday, Redford announced a trip to China. Redford must have a hankering for authentic Chinese food, because this is her SECOND trip to China this year — and this year is not even nine-months old. This trip will cost an estimated $67,000, and it comes on the heels of her previous trip to China that racked up a tab of $39,000.
Continuing with our game of Where in the World is Alison Redford, the rambling premier has also visited Chicago ($23,027), New York City and Washington D.C. ($29,541), Virginia and D.C. again ($18,967), and Washington yet again ($6,251).
That’s $267,749 estimated in travel expenses this year. And she’s not alone. International and Intergovernmental Relations Minister Cal Dallas is off to Scotland, Germany and Italy at a cost of $41,645. The combined total for the rambling premier and the non-entity minister is already at more than $360,000 for 10 international trips.
Now, I’m not one of those people who believes elected representatives should never leave their constituency cocoon. I understand that the premier and ministers sometimes have to go around the world to drum up business for the province, or to fly the flag at select events. But Redford’s travel bug needs some antibiotics, stat.
Various government mouthpieces have defended the expenses. The premier’s propagandist, Jay O’Neill, sniffed to the Herald: “As a government we have business to take care of.”
O’Neill said Redford’s second Asia trip was planned last January with the premiers of Saskatchewan and B.C. Fine, but if the premier knew she’d be going to Asia in September, why the first trip?
“There are countries that want our energy and want our resources and we’re doing all we can to make sure that happens,” lectured O’Neill. “We’ve had some foreign investment in the oilsands announced recently … and this is just continuing to drive more interest.”
Well, of course. Governments make multi-billion dollar decisions based on how often a premier of a province comes calling, cap in hand, asking “More, please?”
In rejecting calls from the opposition that travel should be curtailed until the budget is balanced, O’Neill, displaying the instincts of a true democrat, told the Herald “they can say what they want”. Thank you, Mr. O’Neill.
International and Intergovernmental Relations mouthpiece (notice how ministers never speak for themselves anymore?) David Sands said the meetings with Chinese officials are already beginning to pay dividends. Responding in an email, Sands said trade with China is booming, and meetings between the premier and officials in China have resulted in Chinese oil company executives coming to Calgary for conferences. Well, that’s certainly worth a hundred grand or so.
Redford is traveling like a sultan these days, seemingly forgetting that she’s using public money for her travels. It might be wise of the premier and her cabinet to forgo any further travel, at least for the rest of the year. I know Bermuda is a tempting destination during an Alberta winter, and if you look hard enough you’ll be able to find some kind of conference to attend, but the premier should hang around home for a while to see what the common folk are up to.