NDP says Jason Kenney adviser spent more than $18K on trips to London
EDMONTON -- One of Alberta Premier Jason Kenney's top advisers spent tens of thousands of dollars of taxpayer money on flights, meals and fancy hotels on a trip to London, alleges the opposition NDP.
NDP MLA Heather Sweet, opposition critic for democracy and ethics, held a news conference Wednesday to discuss the spending habits of principal adviser David Knight Legg.
She said Knight Legg, an international banker who is being paid $195,000 per year by Kenney's office, has expensed "three times more than any other member of the Premier's staff, including the Chief of Staff."
At $45,000, his expenses are so high that in six months, they've already eclipsed spending by NDP Leader Rachel Notley's principal secretary over four years, Sweet said.
Breaking down those expenses, Sweet said Knight Legg spent $18,680.77 on four trips to London that were each three to four days long.
Sweet questioned why one of Kenney's advisers would make pricey trips to London in light of the UCP government's recent budget cuts.
"While the Premier is hiking taxes, cutting funding for schools and hospitals, disbanding firefighting teams and throwing Albertans off the senior's drug plan amid claims the province is broke, David Knight Legg was living a life of luxury in London at Alberta taxpayers' expense," she said.
Publicly available expense reports on the province's website show that Knight Legg spent $3,441.89 on a single flight from London to Calgary in early September.
The premier's office said Knight Legg's flights fall within the government's guidelines and said he upgraded to premium economy "because it affords slightly extra legroom to accomodate his height."
In response, the UCP issued a statement noting Knight Legg was "a highly-credentialed and experienced business professional" who was working to bring business to Alberta, including hosting meetings with investors at the hotels.
"This obviously includes meeting with companies and investors to sell the merits of Alberta," reads the statement.
The statement goes on to note that the expenses were inline with government policy and that high hotel rates aren't abnormal in global cities like London.
The government later issued a further statement in which it declined to name the companies involved.
"Do to the commercially sensitive nature of the meetings – and the fact that foreign-funded activists groups are actively targeting Alberta and large companies doing business in our province – the companies are not named," the statement reads.
The goverment also referenced a speech from Premier Jason Kenney on Wednesday in Calgary where he said he planned to visit London next month.
Political analyst Lori Williams said the optics "don't appear to be very good."
"If they're spending more money than the Albertans that are struggling right now, if money is being spent from government that comes from taxpayers who don't have money to spare at this stage of the game, that's just going to generate a lot of resentment and anger," Williams said.
Earlier this month, NDP Leader Rachel Notley criticized Kenney for spending more than $16,000 on a charter flight for him and fellow Conservative premiers in the summer.
Kenney, she said, chartered the Sunwest flight from the Calgary stampede to a premiers' meeting in Saskatoon.
The passenger list included Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe and his wife, New Brunswick Premier Blaine Higgs and his wife and then-Northwest Territories Premier Bob McLeod.
Kenney made no apologies for the flight, saying it was the only time he's chartered one apart from visting northern Alberta when a massive wildfire was devastating the area.
He said the flight to Saskatchewan was an example of investing in "critical relationships" with like-minded premiers.