‘My job to ensure tax dollars aren’t abused’

During the week of March 10, I addressed some very disturbing expenses within the provincial Tourism Ministry

During the week of March 10, I addressed some very disturbing expenses within the provincial Tourism Ministry, submitted by the Travel Alberta executive leadership team. As the critic for Tourism Parks and Recreation, it was my responsibility to address this situation with the Minister of Tourism in the Legislature.

The questioning of the Tourism Minster took place over three days of session, from March 10 to March 12. The questionable expenses included inquiries into the following:

An $8,800 flight to Singapore and Tokyo, first class, in June 2013. The purpose of the flight was to negotiate a contract with the current CFO. The government policy allows for business class, not executive class.

A $2,000 dinner in the private dining room at the Hardware Grill in December 2013.

A $900 dinner in February 2013 with Parks Canada.

$295 was spent on alcohol.

An $839 dinner at Grizzly House in Banff. In attendance was the CEO’s wife. The cost was not economical and included families of employees. It was labelled, “a team dinner.”

In July 2013, the CEO expensed a $150 tuxedo rental as a hospitality expense to attend the Banff Center’s Midsummer ball. The person in question earns $240,000/yr. in base salary plus $150,000 in benefits.

In response to my questions on the first day, the Minister attempted to outline the entire Tourism industry and its value to Alberta in an attempt to justify the luxurious expense claims by the CEO.

On the second day of questions to the Minister, he was asked why someone who is paid $390,000 a year needs us to rent him a suit.

Help me out here, we pay bureaucrats exorbitant wages, and they’re telling us that taxpayers should dress them as well. Why? Again the Minister went into a diatribe about the Tourism industry’s value to Alberta avoiding the issue completely.

After two straight days of frustrating non-answers provided by the Minister, I decided to drive my point home to him about how inappropriate and wrong these expense claims really are. To that end, I donned a rented Tuxedo for $130 that I paid for myself. Judging from the responses provided by the Minister, it appears the mentality of the Alberta government is that they are indeed entitled to their entitlements.

In a letter addressed to the Auditor General, I have requested that these expenses be investigated to determine their legitimacy. In the letter, I expressed that my fear is the expense policy enacted by the Government of Alberta, is not misunderstood, but being deliberately misinterpreted. I hope the Auditor’s office can get to the bottom of these expenses and reassure Albertans that their tax dollars are being used economically and prudently.

As the representative in the Alberta Legislature for the riding of Drumheller Stettler and the Wildrose Official Opposition critic for Tourism Parks and Recreation, I feel it is not only my job, but my duty to advocate on behalf of every Albertan to ensure that your hard-earned tax dollars are not abused.

Rick Strankman is the MLA for Drumheller-Stettler.

— From the Legislature