Premier Alison Redford waves to the crowd during the Capital EX Parade downtown in Edmonton on Thursday, July 19, 2012.
Credits: CODIE MCLACHLAN/QMI AGENCY
That's compared to $230,200 on trips more than $10,000 each in 2011 and a record $477,150 in 2010, as reported in official press releases.
And next week's six-day Olympic journey racks up $83,800 on the public dime when Premier Alison Redford, two ministers and three staffers head to London, rivalled only by Asian junkets in June that saw Redford deliver the keynote at an international investment conference in China, and meetings with business and government officials at a cost of $43,625, combined with the $45,000 tab for International and Intergovernmental Relations Minister Cal Dallas to promote Alberta's trade and investment opportunities in China and South Korea.
Official Opposition Leader Danielle Smith of the Wildrose Party said just trying to figure out how the Ye Olde London trip could fairly cost $83,800 is mind-boggling.
"We were trying to figure out how they'd get to that... We wanted to put together a Bev Oda-style trip with all the bells and whistles. That's a pretty extravagant number," Smith said. "It wouldn't take too much to cut the cost in half."
Smith applauded the premier for adding receptions to the itinerary, but says accounting is necessary.
By 2010, the price tag on Alberta's ministerial travel was back up at 2007's all-time record levels and on the increase, said Scott Hennig of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation.
"What we saw was that total ministerial travel dropped in 2008, it was back up in 2009 and has grown ever since," he said.
The idea of a provincial premier going to the Olympics on the taxpayers' dime is overkill, Hennig said. And it's not enough to "show me the money" and what was spent; government must give an accounting of what bang taxpayers got for their buck, he said.
"The problem is, the government never reports anything even remotely close to that," Hennig said. "You should be able to show what you got for $100,000 for a trip to China -- what was the actual tangible benefits of spending that money...
"The government does a terrible job of reporting back on that."
Redford said the Olympic trip is an important one for Alberta.
"They are where the world meets and that's where Alberta needs to be. They are a golden opportunity to tell our story to key decision-makers, executives and investors all at the same time and in the same place," she said.
Tourism, Parks and Rec Minister Christine Cusanelli and Minister of Culture Heather Klimchuk will join her. Their agendas will be dominated by individual meetings and business receptions promoting Alberta's commitment to clean energy, the potential for investment in our tourism industry and opportunities in the arts and culture, a release from Redford's communications office said.
Alberta will host three receptions. Redford will be a keynote speaker at two others -- a Canadian Energy day hosted by the federal department of foreign affairs and international trade and a Canada-U.K. chamber of commerce event at which she will speak about Alberta's strong economy and its growing international focus.
Cusanelli will host a reception for top-level tourism execs.
"Her focus will be on improving air access to Alberta and growing the province's share of the European travel market. Europe is already Alberta's largest overseas tourism market -- with 397,000 Europeans coming to Alberta and spending $400 million in 2010," she said.
Klimchuk will host arts organizations, promoters and arts media at a luncheon aimed at fostering exchange and growing Alberta's cultural industries, which employ thousands of Albertans and contribute billions of dollars to the economy annually, the release said. Seventeen artists, ranging from alternative country singer Corb Lund and pop vocalist Alyssa Reid to champion hoop dancer Dallas Arcand and visual artist Lewis Lavoie, will showcase Alberta's diverse cultural scene at all five scheduled receptions.