Alberta premier Alison Redford.
Credits: DARREN MAKOWICHUK/CALGARY SUN QMI AGENCY
CALGARY — Alberta civil servants' expenses will go online for public view following criticism over the spending of taxpayers' money.
In a surprise press conference in Calgary attended by the entire Tory caucus, Alberta Premier Alison Redford unveiled the policy that will also place limits on what government officials -- from cabinet ministers down to executive managers -- can spend on things like travel and dinners.
"When I ran for the leadership last year, I said it was time to close the door on old school politics," said Redford.
"We are bringing forward today a robust policy that will bring greater transparency ... it is the only way people will have confidence in democratic institutions."
The disclosure rules, she said, are the most stringent in Canada.
Beginning Oct. 1, expense summaries including receipts will be tabulated, the first ones to go online in December.
The move comes after a senior Alberta Health Services (AHS) official stepped down, after excessive expenses he'd charged to taxpayers were revealed.
Redford herself has come under criticism for her travel expenses.
Though the changes don't govern arms-length public institutions like the AHS, the premier made it clear that "we expect all public boards to follow our lead."
She couldn't say if the new approach will actually reduce expenses racked up by civil servants.
"I don't know whether it will or won't -- it'll make us continue to strive to higher standards," said Redford.
Redford said the previous expense policy wasn't necessarily violated, but added "that policy wasn't good enough."
The changes will also narrow what government officials can claim, with an emphasis on taking economy class flights and limits when alcohol can be expensed, said Minister of Service Alberta Manmeet Bhullar.
While the move is a welcome one that's taken from his party's election platform, Wildrose Airdrie-Chestermere MLA Rob Anderson said it remains to be seen if the government behaves more responsibly.
"They're doing some good talking right now but we want to see some action ... are they going to cut back on expenses?" he said.
"Why doesn't the premier fly economy class? Is it ever OK to charge taxpayers for alcohol?"
The Canadian Taxpayers Federation hailed the disclosure rules, with Alberta director Scott Hennig saying he hopes it spreads to other agencies.
"We've always maintained that sunlight is the best disinfectant, and you can have all the rules you want, but nothing beats complete transparency," he said.