EDMONTON -- From late dinners for two at Edmonton’s primo Madison’s Grill to some 93 working breakfasts, lunches and late evening dinners with her executive assistant, Premier Alison Redford’s expense trail is blazed with meals on the taxpayer’s dime.
For the very patient bean-counter, the premier made a copy available to the public at the legislature library where anyone could wade through some 1,200-plus pages of expenses. The large stack of papers cover expenses submitted between March 2008 and February 2011 when she was minister of justice and attorney general, as well as those since she became premier from October 2011 to August 2012.
There’s a night at the tony Hay-Adams hotel in Washington D.C. -- $934 for one night, June 3. An $88 room service breakfast at New York’s Waldorf Astoria wasn’t the only expensive thing on that bill.
Two nights at the Chateau Frontenac in Quebec City ran $1,736 -- including $1,000 for the room.
Redford’s press secretary Kim Misik said while some venues are more expensive, “every mission is looked at through a different lens on the amount of work.
“At the same time, there’s value in telling Alberta’s story in the political centres of the U.S.,” Misik said.
The pages tell the story of frequent 7 a.m. meals at the Hotel MacDonald with her executive assistant Ryan Barberio, with the tab frequently running between $30 and $70, as well as late evening dinners after long days of leadership.
Billing taxpayers for meals consumed during precious time for planning and scheduling is all part of the job, Misik said.
“She’s got an aggressive schedule and she doesn’t apologize for that,” she said.
“It’s all a part of being brief and prepped and knowing what the schedule is bringing in the next few hours.
“That’s the commitment she made as a premier -- it’s long hours and she gets the work done.”
At least at a Nov. 21 late night dinner with two staffers, the 11 p.m. bill included coffee and pop but didn’t bill the taxpayers more than $100 for eight glasses of Malbec.
There were some important people hosted along the way. Former cabinet minister Jack Hayden joined her and two staffers for a $315 sushi feed at Blue Water Cafe and Raw Bar in Vancouver.
A March 6 dinner for nine at Tosca in Washington, D.C., included $408 for three people from the premier’s office.
A Nov. 12 dinner at Valbella Ristorante in New York with the premier, Barberio and chief of staff Stephen Carter ran $270 -- but that included a $42 tip.
A $500 tab for a 9 p.m. dinner at Von’s in Edmonton on Feb. 21 hosted executive team members including then-Deputy Premier Doug Horner and chief of staff Stephen Carter.
For calf’s liver, toasted lobster sandwich and fresh oysters, try lunch at the Ranchmen’s Club, billed as “Calgary’s oldest and most prestigious private club.” A Dec. 9 lunch with the premier and Duane Monea ran $180 for four.
Not all the repasts were fancy. A Nov. 3, 2011 lunch with Deputy Premier Doug Horner at McDougal Centre ran $20 in total.
There is even the occasional hit on the taxpayer when plans had to change. A night cancelled at the Hotel Giraffe in New York still cost the taxpayers $647. The program change resulted in a bonus meeting with senators and congressmen in Washington, D.C., Misik said.
“It was a great opportunity to sit down with some decision-makers in the major political centre of the U.S.,” she said.
Eventually, the premier’s get-transparent new expense policy -- one she touts is the toughest in Canada -- will go online in December where every Tory leader’s expenses will be available for anyone to see.
Misik said putting the receipts out there for public consumption is part of the transparency Redford has been committed to since the leadership campaign, with her new policy going into effect last month.
“This is a new era of transparency in Alberta and the premier’s committed to that,” Misik said.