Alison Redford’s Political Scandals
Alison Redford’s reign as Premier was brought to a premature end by the revelation of her expenditure on a trip to attend Nelson Mandela’s funeral. Towards the end of her Premiership and after it, several more gross abuses of power and expenses were brought to light. These have served to further illuminate her actions behind the scenes and taint her political legacy.
The Mandela Trip
During her work in assisting South Africa’s transition to democracy and their elections in 1994 Redford had got to know Nelson Mandela. She thus ensured that she could attend his funeral as Alberta’s official representative. When it was revealed that the trip, for her and an aide, had cost the tax payer $45,000 there was uproar from the opposition and within her own party. Redford initially announced that she would repay $3,100 that had been charged inappropriately but, when that failed to quell the storm of outrage, she agreed to pay back all $45,000. Following several resignations from her own party ranks however, Redford eventually agreed to resign as Premier.
During her last official trip, to promote Alberta’s interests in India, followed by an appearance at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Alison Redford and around half-a-dozen aides managed to cost the Albertan taxpayer $450,000. The trip included an unscheduled visit to London for a weekend instead of visiting Canadian troops in Afghanistan, which had to be cancelled due to increased violence in the region.
Advance Trip Planning
Following her resignation, the possibility of a criminal investigation by the RCMP into Redford’s illegal use of government funds arose due to her employment of an advance trip planner to recce potential hotels, restaurants and even public bathrooms. Michelle Tetreault, a government employee, racked up over $330,000 in expenses in 20 months while scouting locations around the world that Redford was due to visit. She filed reports on information places to dine, patios for drinks and souvenirs to buy.
Redford came in for substantial criticism following the revelation that her daughter had accompanied her on government jets which she was supposedly using for official government business. These included two trips to the luxury Jasper Park Lodge, on one of which her daughter was accompanied by a friend and on both of which Alison Redford claimed to be “meeting government officials”.
After her resignation, details started to emerge about a luxury “Skypalace” at the government-owned Federal Building in Edmonton that was to serve as a residence for Redford and her daughter close to government offices. The upgrade of the penthouse offices would have cost nearly $2 million, with desired items including $45,000 on drapes and $43,000 on stone and porcelain floor and wall tiles.
Immediately after resigning as Premier, Alison Redford declared that she would keep her role as the MLA for Calgary-Elbow as a backbencher. This only lasted a few months however, as another scandal soon emerged. A leaked report from the auditor general revealed that Redford’s office routinely listed false passengers on government jets so that they would seem full, thus preventing other MLAs or officials from flying on the same flights. This scandal finally forced her permanent exit from politics.
A later report by CBC in 2015 suggested that Redford had manipulated the supposedly independent process which was used to hire a legal team in a $10 billion lawsuit against tobacco interests. This had allegedly been done so as to ensure that the firm chosen was that of her ex-husband Robert Hawkes, despite it finishing bottom of the tendering body’s list. However, British Columbia’s ethics commissioner exonerated her of breaking Alberta’s Conflict of Interest Act following investigation.