If Albertans are getting used to that idea — they shouldn’t be. While public representatives often need to travel to far-flung destinations in order to fulfill their duties, Redford’s entrance into this sometimes-touchy arena has reached some rather grim heights since she ascended to the premiership.
When it was revealed earlier this month the premier’s trip to South Africa to attend Nelson Mandela’s funeral cost Alberta taxpayers a whopping $45,000, many in the opposition as well citizens across the province were legitimately crying foul.
And the fact remains that attending Mandela’s funeral — despite him being an honoured statesman and world figure — could hardly be considered integral to the day-to-day business of managing Alberta’s government affairs. And it’s not as though Redford would have been the only Canadian representative at the funeral.
It would be hard for Redford to escape the criticism that trips to attend funerals have much to do with public relations and perception and much less to do with paying respects or forging new relationships with foreign governments. On the other hand, tales of private jets and other travel-related largess does little to enhance the premier’s respectable profile at home, whatever else it might do for her on the international stage.
The question must be asked: How much do the taxpayers of Alberta ultimately benefit from footing the bill for their premier’s all-expense paid trip to an exotic capital to attend a funeral? Trips to G8 conferences or myriad trade missions are one thing — taxpayers might at least see a tangible economic benefit — but a funeral is another question altogether.
Again, travelling to Washington to attend the funeral of a deceased former president might be one thing, but deep into the southern reaches of the Dark Continent for a deceased former president?
Some people might consider that a less-than-necessary expense.
This isn’t the only globetrotting venture Alberta’s premier has embarked upon since taking office. During the 2012 London Olympics, Redford’s Alberta delegation cost taxpayers well over half a million dollars, factoring in the delegations from Travel Alberta and the departments of tourism and culture, not to mention a $114,000 tab for London hotel rooms that were booked but never used.
That’s a rather hefty price tag for a premier’s entourage as another public relations adventure in a foreign capital.
And what was the federal government’s tab for attending the 2012 London Olympics? A comparably meagre $334,524 for a delegation of 21. Alberta’s delegation topped out at 29, including 16 artists and performers and a chef. Province of sober expense and homeland of fiscal conservatism? We think not, or perhaps more demonstratively, the facts would seem to suggest otherwise.
Considering the backlash over Redford’s recent trip to South Africa, the premier recently announced she would not be attending the 2014 Sochi Olympics, perhaps to give her overwrought damage control team the week off. Sagging provincial coffers are also breathing a sigh of relief.