FLIP­PING OUT

$16,000 in tax­payer funded plane tick­ets for Con­ser­va­tive pre­miers af­ter Stam­pede ‘tone deaf,’ op­po­si­tion says

StarMetro Calgary - - FRONT PAGE - KIERAN LEAV­ITT

DMONTON—They came, they saw, they flipped pan­cakes.

But af­ter a group of Con­ser­va­tive pre­miers joined Al­berta Premier Jason Ken­ney for a Calgary Stam­pede photo-op, three of them, along with two spouses, boarded a char­ter flight to Saskatchew­an— to the tune of $16,000 billed to Al­berta tax­pay­ers.

Re­spond­ing af­ter the flight man­i­fests were re­vealed by the NDP on Thurs­day, Ken­ney called it “a bit of Al­berta hos­pi­tal­ity to pre­miers in prov­inces whose sup­port we need.”

He told re­porters there was no avail­able com­mer­cial flight, so the Ken­ney gov­ern­ment used pub­lic money to pay for he and his fel­low pre­miers to get to a Coun­cil of the Federation meet­ing on time.

But in a time of bud­get cut­backs, NDP Leader Rachel Not­ley called the de­ci­sion “in­cred­i­bly tone deaf.”

On July 8, ac­cord­ing to the flight man­i­festo ob­tained by the NDP, 16 peo­ple flew from Calgary to

Saska­toon on a char­tered flight. They in­cluded Ken­ney, Saskatchew­an Premier Scott Moe, New Brunswick Premier Blaine Higgs, and Bob McLeod, who was then premier of the North­west Ter­ri­to­ries. Moe and Higgs had their spouses on the flight as well.

Not­ley raised the is­sue dur­ing a com­mit­tee meet­ing on Thurs­day where she and Ken­ney butted heads.

“This is a premier who’s been con­sis­tently say­ing it’s not oner­ous for peo­ple on AISH (As­sured In­come for the Se­verely Hand­i­capped) to lose any­where from $30 to $120 a month,” Not­ley said.

“But some­how, it’s ab­so­lutely OK to spend an ex­tra $14,000 in or­der to fa­cil­i­tate a pan­cake party con­sist­ing of con­ser­va­tive pre­miers, their wives, their staff.”

How­ever, Ken­ney said the pre­miers who vis­ited Calgary ahead of the Saska­toon meet­ing were do­ing Al­berta “a solid.”

He said they were able to co-or­di­nate plans for stand­ing up for en­ergy de­vel­op­ment and pipe­lines in the face of what Ken­ney sees as an un­friendly fed­eral gov­ern­ment when it comes to Al­berta’s eco­nomic in­ter­ests. Ken­ney said it’s the only time he’s char­tered a flight and that he nor­mally flies

“KEN­NEY’S MAS­SIVE CHAR­TER FLIGHT EX­PENSE IS A MIS­USE OF TAX DOL­LARS AT THE WORSE POS­SI­BLE TIME.” Franco Ter­raz­zano Al­berta di­rec­tor for the Canadian Tax­pay­ers Federation

econ­omy.

“Investing in build­ing those re­la­tion­ships to fight back against Ot­tawa’s anti-Al­berta agenda is some­thing that we ab­so­lutely must do,” Ken­ney said. “If that in­volves some host­ing costs, some lo­gis­tics costs, I think that’s some­thing that we should be do­ing.”

The move didn’t only rub the Op­po­si­tion the wrong way. On Thurs­day, the Canadian Tax­pay­ers Federation — which Ken­ney used to work for — put out a press re­lease slam­ming the premier as well.

“Ken­ney’s mas­sive char­ter flight ex­pense is a mis­use of tax dol­lars at the worse pos­si­ble time,” said Franco Ter­raz­zano, Al­berta di­rec­tor for the Canadian Tax­pay­ers Federation.

“How can Ken­ney look tax­pay­ers in the eye right now and tell them he dropped thou­sands of dol­lars on a char­ter flight to Saska­toon?”

Ken­ney isn’t the first premier of Al­berta to have ques­tion marks over flights. When Ali­son Red­ford was premier, it was re­vealed that she had fake pas­sen­gers booked onto flights so she could ride alone.

Red­ford re­signed as premier in 2014 amid mount­ing crit­i­cism over al­le­ga­tions of cor­rup­tion.

JEFF MCINTOSH/THE CANADIAN PRESS

Al­berta Premier Jason Ken­ney hosted a Stam­pede break­fast with vis­it­ing pre­miers last July. Pic­tured are, left to right, Blaine Higgs, of New Brunswick, Scott Moe, of Saskatchew­an, and Robert McLeod, then of the North­west Ter­ri­to­ries. Af­ter­wards sev­eral boarded a char­tered flight paid for by Al­berta tax­pay­ers.

THE CANADIAN PRESS

Af­ter a group of Con­ser­va­tive pre­miers joined Al­berta Premier Jason Ken­ney, left, for a Calgary Stam­pede photo-op, three of them, along with two spouses, boarded a char­ter flight to Saskatchew­an.

THE CANADIAN PRESS FILE PHOTO

Ac­cord­ing to the flight man­i­festo ob­tained by the NDP, 16 peo­ple flew on the char­tered flight from Calgary to Saska­toon. They in­cluded Jason Ken­ney, right, Bob McLeod, who was then premier of the North­west Ter­ri­to­ries, left, New Brunswick Premier Blaine Higgs and Saskatchew­an Premier Scott Moe. Moe and Higgs had their spouses on the flight as well. On­tario Premier Doug Ford, sec­ond from right, was not on the flight.

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