Flying on your own, the Alberta Conservative way

Colby Cosh explains why the latest revelations about Alison Redford are worse than the last


MAC14_COSHONREDFORD_CAROUSEL01I was pretty sure the press had squeezed the last ounce of public entertainment out of ex-premier Alison Redford’s outrages against the Alberta treasury. Her attempt at constructing a secret premier’s residence in Edmonton’s Federal Building was always going to be hard to top, and, for brazen North Korea-esque megalomania, it still takes the cake. But just when you think the CBC’s investigative team of Rusnell & Russell have served their last scoop, there’s suddenly a waffle cone in your hand, shedding chocolate dip and sprinkles all over the place. [Enough dessert metaphors. Do you need a cookie? -ed.]

The pair has got hold of a draft report by Alberta’s Auditor General that adds a shocking new twist to the tales of government aircraft abuse already written into the Redford legend. Redford’s staff, according to Auditor General Merwan Saher’s report, apparently made a habit of ensuring that the premier would not have to fly in the same aluminum tube as civil servants (ew!) or other MLAs (God no!) by faking flight bookings—adding fictional passengers in order to crowd persons with official business out of the empty seats, then removing the names when the manifest was printed out.

Redford and her last chief of staff, Farouk Adatia, are denying any knowledge of the practice. In the report, Saher says the accusation was supported in interviews both with the premier’s own staff and with “multiple staff” from the Treasury Board. In other words, it does not seem to have been the world’s best-kept secret, even if the details were actually kept from the premier, whose ethical lapses have shared a weird theme of paranoia and isolation. (Her Federal Building hideaway was to include “sleeping and grooming quarters with clothing storage for an adult and one teenager.”)

More from macleans.ca:

The new revelation about Redford’s cavalier use of government aircraft is on an echelon of seriousness above the previous ones, since it involves the active falsifying of government data—and data that pertain to aviation, at that. That seems like the kind of thing that might get the police interested in a breach-of-trust case, and maybe Transport Canada would have a thing or two to ask about it, too. (Or maybe totalitarian air security is just for peons, and federal regulators are totally cool about air carriers screwing around with their own records.)

The leaders of Alberta’s Wildrose and Liberal parties called for an RCMP investigation into the faked passenger lists, as did PC leadership candidate Jim Prentice. Rival Ric McIver mentioned “proper authorities,” but fellow candidate Thomas Lukaszuk used a little more PC-style finesse, saying that as premier, he would ask an “independent legal expert” to review “expenses and travel arrangements” made by Redford and her staff. “I’d pick up the phone and call the cops” was apparently not the preferred answer to this mini-quiz.

Lukaszuk added that he would consider ejecting Redford from the Progressive Conservative caucus, helpfully reminding us that she is still the Progressive Conservative member for Calgary-Elbow. The Wildrose Party and the NDP have gotten nominations underway for the anticipated 2016 election, but the PCs have yet to start their process. It was a bit of a surprise that Redford did not resign from the Assembly when she stepped aside as premier in March, and the surprise surely grows with each passing day. It hardly seems credible that Redford can continue to live in Alberta, much less work in any position involving more responsibility than a Slurpee machine, but perhaps she is clinging to Elbow as a last lone bargaining chip.

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Flying on your own, the Alberta Conservative way

  1. Rules……they are for other people (taxpayers).
    Expensive luxuries…….they are for other people (taxpayers) to pay for.

  2. The title of the article is inaccurate. It should say “Flying on your own, the Alberta Progressive Conservative way”.

    Alison Redford is not conservative. The Progressive Conservative party, under her “leadership” moved significantly away from conservative values (a journey they’ve been on a long while). She’s a progressive, through and through. The worst kind of ‘nanny state’ progressive possible.

    Is anyone surprised at these latest revelations? This is the same party that has not tossed her from caucus. This is the same party they decided that the moratorium on wages for ‘senior’ staffers could be eliminated as a time when fiscal prudence is essential.

    • She is what she is and none of that matters. All political parties are equally vulnerable to corruption and incompetence. The only people who get into electoral politics are power-hungry socialites who only really know how to network. They don’t focus on real issues – that’s for interns and underlings to deal with, and all the elected official has to do is stamp their name on it and act like they are passionate about whatever it is they think will get them more support.

      So long as we buy into partisan rhetoric, we’re all fools. We need to regulate our politics more to reduce waste and mismanagement.

  3. Let’s see…..faced with a choice of 2 women leaders, you elect one from the same old party, let her govern for awhile in the same old way and then attack her for doing the same old things as all her predecessors. Be aghast….and then elect a male leader.

    Life in the Promised Land goes on.

    • I’m not getting your idea that this happened because she is a woman.
      When she ran she had no sitting MLAs support her leadership bid. After her election as Premier she ignored her back-bench MLAs (some of whom stated that they only had the chance to talk to her once or twice during her entire reign) and a few Cabinet ministers as well.
      I think Redford ran into a more banal problem. When the going got rough and the allegations started leaking out she found that she had few friends willing to go to bat for her.
      Chretien knew that keeping his MPs happy was the only way his leadership could continue (once he lost too many to Martin he was toast.)

      • Oh I see. It’s all because she wasn’t pleasant and agreeable.

        Maybe she should have baked cookies for them.

    • Redford lives in Calgary with her husband Glen Jermyn, a lawyer with the federal Department of Justice, and daughter Sarah.

  4. I love a good flogging as much as anyone, but I find the idea that what she did here being a “criminal” matter to be laughable. I’m not even sure it was unethical.

    The scheme was apparently designed to get around (stupid) rules that piously stated that any bureaucrat or MLA wanting to join the preem (for lobbying on various pet projects) could easily do so by just booking into her flights, where she’d be a captive audience.

    I’ll betcha she isn’t the only one who filled up planes with non-existent passengers who all disappeared before flight time. The idea that doing this constitutes a criminal matter, and that RCMP ought to expend resources looking into this political allegation, is ridiculous beyond belief.

    What I don’t understand is why, given the unpleasantness of contemporary politics, anyone would want to run for public office. I suspect electors will soon have their electoral choices limited to candidates who’s main motivation for running is that they desperately need a paycheque, no matter how degrading the work. It’s certainly what voters deserve.

    • Totally agree.

      Large province, lots of travel required, busy life, far more than being a CEO….but somehow it’s expected that leaders bike everywhere, and never eat anything but pizza

      • There are about 42 daily commercial flights between Calgary and Edmonton every day, at least a dozen from each of those to Fort MacMurray, and 5-6 to Grande Prairie and Medicine Hat. Red Deer is a 1.5 hour drive from each of the main cities. I think we could do without a government fleet.

    • Even in this province–not that any other province maintains a fleet of aircraft for these purposes–potential passengers who aren’t the premier have to have actual government business in order to board the plane. Your mental image of civil-service randoms crowding aboard for day trips in order to pitch the premier on their latest exciting schemes is utterly irrational (but do try running it past an Alberta deputy minister or a rural MLA if you’re feeling confident). We’re not talking about a crosstown bus here.
      As for the possibility of other politicians pulling the “fake passenger manifest” stunt, it would have to be somebody with the authority to get Treasury Board employees as well as their own staff to go along. Who do you imagine doing this? The Lieutenant-Governor, maybe? The Secret Reptoid Overlord of Alberta? Ralph Klein’s ghost? And is politics unpleasant for all these people, too, or is it just possible that Hollywood For Ugly People is in no danger of running out of power-hungry individuals anytime soon?

  5. I suspect the modus operandi didn’t rise to the level of fraud or breach of Transport Canada rules. Just fill up the plane with real people and cancel all of them (“turns out I had to wash my cat instead of going to Phoenix with the Premier”) when it was too late for anyone else to take their place. Easy enough then for the former Premier and her sycophants to plausibly deny any knowledge of any of it.

    On the other hand, CRA should certainly be auditing Ms. Redford’s recent tax returns to confirm she reported several hundred thousand dollars a year in taxable benefits associated with her family members flying around on the taxpayer’s dime. There is no “personal benefit” tax exemption that I’m aware of for “Premier Moms”.

    It will be an interesting next few years in Alberta politics. As any cogent observer of recent events in Alberta politics will attest, Ms. Redford owed her ascension to a cabal of groups – public sector unions, soft left urban voters, media swooning at the prospect of a United Nations lawyer!! as premier – that are antithetical to conservatism in general but who successfully GOTV both during the PC leadership vote and the 2012 provincial election.

    The problem said cabal now faces isn’t that they can’t pull off the same organizational effort in 2015/16 – it’s that the Premier they foisted on the rest of us has generated sufficient outrage to ensure that every teacher that follows her union’s marching orders to the polling station will be standing behind 10 voters determined to finally rid the province of the party that let it all happen.

  6. So the manifest would show a bunch of people, and then when the time came to fly, it would change to eliminate all the others except for Redford, the daughter, and the chosen few. The pilots, expecting a full load, would take on only partial fuel. Then when all the phantoms failed to show, they would have to refuel part way to their destination.

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