Deputy premier's pre-election expenses to be released
Horner staff to supply expenses despite freedom of information mix-up
Wednesday, Dec 26, 2012 06:00 am
A provincial taxpayers’ advocate is targeting a local MLA for failing to disclose pre-election expenses by deadline, but a government spokesperson says the problem is with the advocate.
The Canadian Taxpayers Federation filed freedom of information requests in mid-September seeking the pre-election expenses of nine “big dog” government ministers, including the former deputy premier.
The deadline for reports to be received was Dec. 14 and all but one minister –current Spruce Grove-St. Albert MLA, president of the treasury board and minister of finance Doug Horner – has complied with the request.
“We’ve had to pull teeth to get expenses out of the government right across the board and this one is a bit of a molar,” said Derek Fildebrandt, Alberta director of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation.
Horner held the position of deputy premier under premier Ed Stelmach from January 2010 to February 2011, until he stepped down to run for the Progressive Conservative leadership. Prior to the election, he also sat as president of the treasury board.
Robyn Cochrane, spokesperson for treasury board and finance, said the federation didn’t receive pre-election expenses before Dec. 14 because it didn’t request them from the correct ministry.
“I think he’s playing games,” she said. “We have the records. We have nothing to hide.”
She said Horner claimed expenses on behalf of the treasury board instead of executive council, where the freedom of information request was submitted.
“Derek Fildebrandt was told that by executive council and that if he wanted those (reports), he was supposed to therefore send that request to treasury board and finance,” Cochrane said.
Fildebrandt said he did not contact that department, as he hoped executive council would fulfil his request.
The request was fulfilled by treasury board and finance Dec. 21, after the issue went public on Twitter earlier that week.
The expense reports had not been posted to the Canadian Taxpayers Federation website by press time on Dec. 21.
Cochrane said when the pre-election expenses are released, they will not distinguish between deputy premier business and ministerial business.
Current deputy premier Thomas Lukaszuk claims expenses on behalf of executive council – he claimed nearly $625 in a two-month period starting Oct. 1 – but does not hold another ministerial position.
During the time Horner was deputy premier, he sat as president of the treasury board as well as minister of advanced education and technology — a position he held from December 2006 to February 2011. A freedom of information request was not submitted for this position.
Local politicians went easy on the taxpayers’ wallet for the first two months of a new government policy.
The expense disclosure policy took effect Oct. 1, requiring ministers and senior staff to disclose travel and expense claims and supporting them with detailed receipts, with the first batch of receipts released earlier in the month.
Stephen Khan, St. Albert MLA and minister of enterprise and advanced education, claimed $1,245.95, most of which was for a return Air Canada economy-class flight for $970.36. Horner expensed $579.38 for accommodation and taxis.
Ministers and senior officials are no longer permitted to claim alcohol or business-class travel and are asked to fly economy and take taxis.
Expenses will be posted every two months, with the next set to be released in mid February. They can be viewed online at www.alberta.ca/travelandexpensedisclosure.cfm.