Monday, September 01, 2014

"Luk's toast!"

Good Day Readers:

Don't you love how politicians think? When they get caught, or are about to get caught, with their hand in the public's cookie jar they immediately try to replace the cookies as though nothing happened.

The leadership campaign to choose the next Alberta Conservative leader and Premier to replace Alison "Queen of Entitlements" Redford is starting to get interesting because plain, unmarked, brown manila envelopes are starting to show up at the media the latest two concerning "Luk." You're got to love "Luk." Now he's calling for an audit of all Cabinet Ministers so he can presumably get them covered in .... too - he sure is a ballsy lad! The Tories have so tarnished their brand even Jim "The Magician" Prentice won't be able to save them.

"Queen's" enduring legacy? Almost single handedly she brought down the 43 year Conservative dynasty in Alberta.

Clare L. Pieuk
Lukaszuk calls for audit of all cabinet expenses after repaying costs of daughter's flights

By Keith Gerein
Tuesday, September 2 ,2014

PC leadership candidate Thomas Kukaszuk quietly wrote the province a cheque last month for about $1,400 to reimburse the cost of his daughter's seat on three government plane rides between 2007 and 2012. (Photograph by: Ed Kaiser/Edmonton Journal)

EDMONTON - Progressive Conservative leadership candidate Thomas Lukaszuk says he will be calling on the province’s auditor general to investigate the travel and expense records of all cabinet ministers, after it was revealed Monday that he recently paid back the province for taking his daughter on government flights.

Lukaszuk said he proactively and quietly wrote the province a cheque last month for about $1,400 to reimburse the costs of his daughter’s seat on three government plane rides between 2007 and 2012 — even though all the trips were strictly for business and he derived no personal benefit.

“I said to myself that if there is anything that would undermine my credibility or my integrity, I want it squared off and that’s why I cut the cheque,” he said. “Even though it is really beyond reproach and I’m sure auditor general would say so, I don’t want any shadows of doubt cast over me.

“But if my cutting of the cheque is setting an example, boy, there will be a lot of very large cheques cut (by other ministers).”

The flights in question were made public Monday in a story by CBC News, which received an anonymous tip in the mail about Lukaszuk.

Lukaszuk said he made the decision to pay back the money shortly after the auditor released a report on Aug. 7 that questioned the practice of elected officials taking family members on government planes, including 50 occasions in which former premier Alison Redford had her daughter on board. The report called on the province to set some firm rules around when relatives should be allowed on the aircraft.

“I wrote a letter to the premier that said in view of the fact you have to develop rules and I don’t know what side of the issue you are going to land on, here’s my cheque because I want to be done with this garbage,” Lukaszuk said.

“That’s why I’m asking the auditor general to audit all of us thoroughly.”

Revelations about his daughter’s travels have opened Lukaszuk to accusations of hypocrisy, since he has been vocal during the PC campaign about the need to eradicate a “culture of entitlement” exhibited by Redford and the government in general.

But Lukaszuk said his criticism was never focused on Redford taking her daughter on government planes.

“I never had an issue when a premier or cabinet minister decides to take a next of kin with them when they have to. But it has to be justifiable and there cannot be any personal benefit to it,” he said. “I’m sure this wouldn’t be an issue if I took my daughter on a Greyhound bus or if she drove with me to Red Deer in my own vehicle and I claimed mileage and gas. But because it is an airplane, there is some issue with it. That’s fine, I accept that.”

The first set of flights on which Lukaszuk’s daughter travelled was from Edmonton to Calgary and back in October 2007, when Lukaszuk was a backbench MLA. Lukaszuk said he was a single father at the time, but he couldn’t recall the reason for the trip because he no longer had his calendar from that year.

His daughter was again on a provincial jet in January 2012, when he made a trip to Grimshaw to check out a school that was in disrepair. The education minister at the time, Lukaszuk said the trip was last minute and his daughter’s school was having a professional development day, so there was no alternative for child care other than to take her on the plane.

The last set of flights was on a Saturday in June 2012 when Lukaszuk went to Medicine Hat to meet with local officials and the mayor about infrastructure issues. Again, there was no one else available to take care of his daughter, he said.

“These were not flights to vacation destinations. These were four-hour return trips, fly in and get the job done and come back on the same day,” he said.

“The flights are all public record, with manifests you can search since 2007, and I just find it very intriguing they are now being leaked one week before the (PC leadership) vote.”

This is the second time in a week that Edmonton media have received an anonymous leak about Lukaszuk. Last week, the Edmonton Sun received a package indicating Lukaszuk had racked up a $20,000 cellphone bill while on holidays in Poland in 2012. Lukaszuk said the charges were incurred while helping a cabinet colleague with a serious legal issue.

He said the leaks are “disheartening” though he is not directly accusing the campaigns of either of his rivals, Ric McIver and Jim Prentice.

Prentice was not available for an interview, but his spokesman Bill Anderson issued a brief statement.

“This story has nothing to do with us. With less than a week to go in the until the first ballot, Jim is focused on selling memberships and supporting the amazing work of our volunteers working to get out the vote,” the statement said.

Meanwhile, the Canadian Taxpayers Federation called out Jim Prentice last week for a flight he chartered during his time as Indian Affairs Minister. Documents obtained through access to information requests by the CTF from the federal government show that Prentice chartered a flight from the Calgary International Airport to the Springbank Airport with three of his staffers before flying on to Fort Macleod. It’s roughly a 30-minute drive from the international airport to the Springbank Airport, and about a two-hour drive to Fort Macleod, which is south of Calgary.

Prentice said the flight was fully approved by the government.

“They (the CTF) went through 3,214 pages of expense accounts and they found one flight that they disagreed with,” he said. “I think it’s pretty clear that I’m very careful with taxpayers’ money” he said.

Ric McIver said he’d be “reticent” to take that flight had he been in Prentice’s position.

“All I’ll say is my records have been pretty clear,” he said. The CTF obtained the expense claims of all three candidates, and have found nothing that “raises concern” with McIver’s claims.

“The taxpayers federation said that they didn’t have any issues with my expenses,” McIver said. “That’s the way I intend to behave as premier, to make sure all government officials’ and elected people’s expenses are boring.”

With files from Erika Stark, Calgary Herald


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