New details emerged this week about former Premier Redford and her government’s abuse of government aircraft.
Frankly, these details are shocking. This government has set the ethical bar very low in this province. But the Auditor General’s findings send it even lower.
They are the clearest indication yet that this government has established one set of rules for itself and one set of rules for everybody else.
Falsifying air plane passenger lists. Multiple trips for personal use. Ignoring cheaper commercial flight options. Booking staff on other flights so the Premier could have an empty plane to herself.
Taken together, these findings appear to warrant a criminal investigation into what is termed under the criminal code as a breach of trust.
Section 122 of the Criminal Code on “Breach of trust by a public officer” has been interpreted by the courts to apply when:
The accused was acting in connection with the duties of his or her office;
The conduct of the accused represented a serious and marked departure from the standards expected of an individual in the accused’s position of public trust; and finally;
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The accused acted with the intention to use his or her public office for a purpose other than the public good, for example, for a dishonest, partial, corrupt, or oppressive purpose.
From the report, the Auditor General has said that among other things, the Premier did personally benefit from her use of the flight and that description could certainly satisfy this last point.
We now know what happens in this country when politicians who are supposed to represent the best interest of taxpayers get caught abusing their privileges.
We’ve seen it at the federal level with Senator Duffy and at the municipal level with Mayor Joe Fontana. There is a public expectation that politicians who break the rules should be investigated and – if warranted – they should be charged and should be held accountable before a court of law.
Premier Dave Hancock has a duty and a moral obligation to fulfil that expectation. That’s why he should step up, demonstrate leadership, and call on the RCMP to investigate.
Further, the three individuals running to succeed Mr. Hancock to commit to doing the same – should Mr. Hancock fail to do so.
This issue goes beyond politics. It cuts to the integrity of our highest political office, it cuts to the question do we really believe in the rule of law.
The PCs will undoubtedly try and pin this all on Ms. Redford and her departed staff, as though they had absolutely nothing to do with any of it.
The fact is there is simply no way these actions could have been taken without other senior government staff and cabinet ministers knowing full well about it.
Ms. Redford and her chief of staff denied being involved in these decisions. If that’s true, how did they get made? Who else knew what was going on? There are many unanswered questions that suggest a much deeper pattern of unethical behaviour.
Finance Minister Doug Horner should also be questioned as part of this investigation. As Finance Minister, the fleet falls under his control. It is his job to ensure all aircraft are used prudently and in accordance with government policy.
He has failed utterly in this regard. Under his watch, the planes became little more than personal air limousines for the Premier and many cases the PC party, instead of what they should be: A legitimate transportation service for government business only.
Albertans deserve to see accountability on these many documented examples of abuse. We now have enough evidence – confirmed by the Auditor General, no less – to suggest a criminal investigation is warranted in these circumstances.
It’s now up to the government to do the right thing and show they still have some shred of integrity left.
Wildrose Finance Critic