AB premier Alison Redford with Calgary-Currie's Christine Cusanelli
Credits: AL CHAREST/CALGARY SUN/QMI AGENCY
Last-ditch efforts to slash the size of the Alberta government entourage at the London Olympics cost Alberta taxpayers a whopping $113,000 in unrecouped hotel expenses.
During a press conference to promote the success of the London mission, Tourism Minister Christine Cusanelli said a decision not to take a much larger entourage stuck taxpayers with the hotel tab.
"In fact, that is something we wanted to make sure we were very upfront and transparent about," Cusanelli said.
The total bill for Premier Alison Redford's Mission to London for a total of 29 people is more than $500,000, including $431,000 in hosting events and the $87,000 six-day travel tab for Redford, Culture Minister Heather Klimchuk and Cusanelli, along with three staffers.
There were originally 18 more people on the ticket before the trip was scaled back.
"We asked the hotel to sell the hotel rooms on our behalf and the market, as you may have heard, softened quite a bit and we were not able to recoup that cost so it is a very unfortunate thing, but nonetheless I think ... at the end of the day what we accomplished on this mission was extraordinary," Cusanelli said.
The province still trimmed $123,000 from other expenses related to the decision not to send the larger delegation, she said.
Opposition Wildrose Party caucus whip Kerry Towle said the news almost made her speechless.
"They were going to have an extra 18 delegates to this whole trip, and I suspect Albertans' outrage of the trip in general forced them to scale this back," she said.
Towle said the $113,000 bill speaks to government mismanagement and incompetence, and she envisioned what that money could have done toward keeping the Carmengay-Little Bow care centre open or providing better meals for seniors.
"What's more important is that they're hiding it," Towle said, adding that the report filed online doesn't meet the premier's accountability standards.
"This says 'travel,' it doesn't say how many rooms, how much they were per night. Are we paying $16 for an orange juice or $2 for a latte? Which is it?" she asked.
Derek Fildebrandt, Alberta director of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, said the Tory government didn't do its homework in planning for the trip.
"They tell us they saved money because (those trimmed from the trip) didn't have to eat. That's politician math," Fildebrandt said.
Hosted events paid for by taxpayers included a Canadian Energy luncheon, $11,508; an Alberta Tourism luncheon, $9,453; Canada-U.K. Chamber Business Luncheon, $10,656; Alberta Reception, $7,012; High Commissioner's VIP dinner, $1,237; Alberta Cultural luncheon, $12,326; performers fees, travel and accommodations, $171,567; Artists Logistics/AV for events, $16,364; chef accommodations, $6,480; Government of Alberta staff travel and accommodations, $70,851.
Cusanelli said the importance of the trip can't be calculated in "dollar-for-dollar" impact.
"In this age of technology, we sometimes forget the power of the face-to-face conversation. Being there matters," Cusanelli said.
"This mission was an investment in expanding our market access, diversifying our economy and most importantly, building relationships."
Advances for Alberta's tourism ministry from the trip included Travel Alberta snagging a 2013 travel conference for 600 German tourism and travel journalism leaders, Cusanelli said.
The conference is expected to result in 15,000 additional German visitors to the province for an additional $16 million tourism dollars spent here, she said.