Alison Redford's picture as it appeared in the Calgary Grit website

Alison Redford’s picture as it appeared in the Calgary Grit website

I usually steer clear of politics because, to be honest, I’m not sure I understand all of it. There are better writers than me touching on some very important topics. I’ve dedicated this page to furthering small business in Edmonton and the surrounding area. However, there are times when something political jumps out at me and just won’t let me go. I wanted to write this blog in a fit of anger but I’m better than that and I didn’t spend all those years as a journalist just to throw out all my integrity because of one person’s actions. After some weeks of milling this over, I came to the conclusion that this issue affects the small businesses I’ve come to know and love and I cannot remain silent any longer. I must say something.

Premier Alison Redford’s spending is out of control.

Let me do a breakdown of some of the costs her trips AROUND THE WORLD have cost Alberta Taxpayers. I found this list alarming and I think my readers will as well.

  1. $9,200 for a return trip from Palm Springs – According to the CBC news article, Redford was on vacation in Palm Springs with her family when Klein’s memorial came up. She needed to return home to attend the memorial. I get it. I get that she needed to get there. However, I’ve been on commercial flights. Surely there was a less costly solution? Especially in the wake of the South Africa fiasco.
  2. $45,000 for the trip to South Africa for Nelson Mandela’s funeral – this is the outrage that had me spewing brimstone and fire for a week. Her assistant, which she apparently needed to help her grieve for Mandela, cost $19,024.39 according to the article in the February 19, 2014 edition of the Edmonton Sun. Oh please. Where can I get a gig like that?
  3. $29,541.08 for a trip to Washington and New York – according to the Government of Alberta’s own website, it cost nearly $30,000 to go to Washington. Her travel alone cost $23,164.89. I don’t know the last time you rented a car but I’ve never racked up a $23k bill. Nor have I ever known anyone who has. Let’s assume she had a limousine to take her everywhere. The disgusting cost to the environment of that indulgence aside, I cannot imagine racking up that kind of cost.
  4. $87,135.38 to go to London – again, according to the Government of Alberta’s OWN website, it cost over $85,000 to go to London in which she spent $38,763.47 in hotel accommodations. Um, pardon me? What did she do? Bunk with Will and Kate? Sleep in the Queen’s bed? For $40k I’d better be getting a happy ending with that room. Her hotel costs ALONE cost more than many Albertans make in a year. Let that sink in for a moment.
  5. $120,000 for a trip to India – I love the Huffington Post. They can always be counted on to deliver interesting and timely articles such as the one on Redford’s trip to India. $120,000 for that trip. Now, the purpose of that trip was to go to the Petrotech Oil and Gas Conference. Wait. What now? So she spent all that money to help the Alberta oil companies. Is that it?
  6. $120,200 for a trip to Switzerland for the World Economic Forum – As much as I searched, I could only find a brief mention by Global Edmonton about this trip. I am sorely disappointed in Alberta’s journalists for not raising more of a fuss about this. I’m not sure but perhaps there was a lot of chocolate involved in this trip?

Now, just in case anyone thinks I’m being unfair to the Premier let me tell you what I went through to try to get their side of things. I sent five or six posts through the Premier’s Facebook Page. Each post removed except one which was a comment on one of their posts. No answer was given. I sent about four tweets to the Premier’s Twitter Page. Not one response. I called the Office of the Premier’s press office three times and made it very clear that my blog was going to publish that morning. I also made it very clear that I was trying desperately to allow them to have their say. I received a promise to send me a press release the Premier issued on the whole travel expenses issue. I’ve given them their chance.

Rob Pearson, Constituency Manager to Brian Mason (Highlands-Norwood), gave me a prompt and very thorough email detailing their concerns. In it he says,

” Brian Mason said he doesn’t think the premier has the proper respect for citizens’ money. “She loves to go on foreign trips, a number of which have simply been photo ops – massively expensive photo ops,” he (Mason) said.”

I have to agree with that assessment. I see nothing here that warrants $38k on hotel costs. He goes on to add that,

“Weakening  our public care facilities, not living up to the social contract and protecting the vulnerable seniors, children and adults and weakening of the public pension plan is just another feather in their (the Progressive Conservatives) cap toward a long-standing policy of gutting public health-care, public pensions, seniors care and a host of other public services and benefiting the private sector in providing services our society relies upon.”

Again, I think I agree with much of this statement. I spent ten years caring for my aging parents and found myself dismayed at the government’s response to their situation. Two people who had been together for over 50 years would have had to go into different care facilities and be split up simply because their health needs were different. Yes, there were, at the time, some private facilities but my parents, blue-collar workers with minimum pension benefits, did not have the means to go there. Meanwhile, I struggled to give them care while battling my anxiety and mismedication. That’s just my experience, though. I’ve heard other stories about the people who have to deal with the fallout of government spending and cutbacks.

Let’s consider, for a moment, the fact that a single person in Edmonton on Income Support only gets $667 per month to live on. A cheap studio apartment in Edmonton often rents for at least $700. I went to the Mainstreet Apartments website and took a look for myself. Boardwalk Rental Communities’ studio apartment prices were even higher. These are the two rental management companies I could think of in Edmonton. Two of the biggest. Trust me, the prices aren’t getting any better.

That $667 per month to cover food, rent, entertainment, travel and bills. I challenge the Premier and her office to live on $667 per month. Oh. Wait. She’s going to London and China and India while people in Edmonton must find food at such places as the Food Bank. By the way, I’m a huge supporter of the Food Bank and encourage everyone else to support them as well. They supply a need that should never exist in our province.

Alberta is wealthy by any standards. Compare us to any province in Canada or many of the states in the United States and we are RICH. We have oil and lumber and some of the best beef in the world. We are not lacking for money. So how is it that I walk downtown Edmonton and see panhandling? How is it that people are living on the streets? How is it that children are going to school hungry and dependent on such programs as the Food for Thought program? Let’s assume that perhaps as high as 10% of the people panhandling are bilking the naïve and have a wealth of money in the bank. That means there are still 90% of people who need to BEG for money. Can you imagine having to stand on a corner and beg for enough money to have a warm place to sleep and some food in your stomach when the Premier spends $38k on hotel costs? If you’re not disgusted yet, then you’re far more jaded than I am.

I first contacted the Premier’s office at about 8:30 am this morning. I called them three times. It’s now 10:37am. I was promised a statement. I was promised a call back. A lot of promises. Still nothing.