Province not showing respect to taxpayers

Imagine going to your local travel agent to scan for the best flight prices to an exotic location.

Imagine going to your local travel agent to scan for the best flight prices to an exotic location. You want to take your spouse on a much-needed and well -deserved vacation to get some sun, see new sights and enjoy another climate for a while.

But what if your agent’s best price was $45,000? What would you do? You’d probably walk away. However, if you weren’t accountable for the charges — would you take it then?

We rely on and trust that our leadership will make decisions based on the best interests of Albertans. That simply has not been the case in Alberta for quite some time now.

This situation has become very concerning to Alberta taxpayers to learn that the premier of Alberta recently did exactly the opposite of what we should be able to expect from our leadership in Alberta. Instead of instructing her staff to shop around a bit, it resulted in a $45,000 tab, so she and her aide could attend the funeral of Nelson Mandela in South Africa.

I do have to ask, why does somebody need an aide for a funeral?

The premier took a $15,000 flight to Ottawa on the Alberta government plane, where she hitched a free ride with Prime Minister Stephen Harper the rest of the way to Johannesburg, South Africa. Her return trip included a $10,000 first-class flexible flight back to Canada, when she could have sat in one of the empty seats on the PM’s plane for free.

Add in the $20,000 round-trip airfare for her personal assistant, and you get a $45,000-bill to taxpayers.

By comparison, Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil, who obviously respects the taxpayers, attended the same funeral but paid only $946.44.

We understand why the premier wanted to attend Mandela’s funeral, but why is Premier Redford’s travel so expensive? Like most of you, this behaviour concerns me greatly. The Alberta government’s expense spending correlates with the record deficits Alberta is facing.

This government has travelled more than any other in the history of Alberta, and the price tag has never been higher. The environment minister recently took an entourage to Europe, billing Albertans $40,000 for the privilege of having represented the province abroad. Not too long ago, the premier spent $120,000 to take an entourage to India. The itinerary involved some mid-level meetings, trade shows and a couple of low-level Memorandums of Understanding.

Now, government travel is legitimate and can even be a good investment. This government, however, can’t seem to grasp the concept of restraint. Everything is first class all the way, and no expense too great.

As your representative in the Alberta Legislature, I will hold the government to account and encourage them to respect taxpayers’ contributions to the province.

Fiscal restraint must start at the top, something Stephen McNeil clearly understands.

Rick Strankman is the MLA for Drumheller-Stettler.

— From the Legislature