EDMONTON - Alberta Premier Alison Redford is heading to the London Olympics at a cost to taxpayers of $84,000.
Redford says during her five-day trip she will promote the province as a place to invest and do business. The focus will be on selling Alberta's energy, tourism and culture sectors on the world stage.
"The Olympics are more than a sporting event," Redford said in a release Wednesday. "They are where the world meets and that's where Alberta needs to be."
Redford called it a golden opportunity to meet with key decision makers and business executives. The trip runs from July 29 to Aug. 4.
The premier is to be the keynote speaker at a Canadian energy day hosted by the federal Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade.
She is also to attend receptions and speak at a Canada-UK Chamber of Commerce event.
The cost of her London trip also covers the travel expenses of two cabinet ministers and three government staff.
The Opposition Wildrose Party said Redford's trip to London is costing taxpayers tens of thousands of dollars more than it should.
Wildrose estimates the government could reduce the tab by more than $50,000 if the premier and her entourage took cheaper flights and stayed less in less expensive hotels.
“We have no problem with the premier advancing Alberta’s interests abroad, but it seems like there’s a way to do it that’s more responsible to taxpayers," Smith said in an email.
"We’re not asking her to stop spreading Alberta’s message, just to respect taxpayers when she’s doing it.”
The Canadian Taxpayers Federation also questioned the worth of Redford's trip.
Scott Hennig, the federation's Alberta director, said people attend the Olympics to watch the sporting events, not to talk seriously about heavy oil and trade.
"I'm not sure that people are going to be looking for information on Alberta when they are going to the Olympics," Hennig said.
"I'm not sure that there is a worse time you can go to London to meet with officials. Hotels are going to be crazy expensive."
Hennig said Redford should file a report on what the trip achieved when she returns to Alberta.
Adam van Koeverden
<strong><u>Canoe/Kayak</u></strong> The veteran paddler has an Olympic medal of every colour and he'll be gunning to add to his collection in London. Van Koeverden, who served as Canadian flag-bearer at the opening ceremonies in 2008, should be a contender in the K1 1,000-metre event. The 30-year-old from Oakville, Ont., won a world title at that distance last year in Hungary.
<strong><u>Athletics</u></strong> The 31-year-old shot putter from Kamloops, B.C., is hoping to erase the painful memory of coming less than a centimetre short of a medal at the 2008 Games in Beijing. Armstrong was ranked No. 1 in the world last season but battled injuries over the winter. He didn't qualify for the world indoor final last March but has looked solid in the lead-up to London, consistently performing well on the Diamond League circuit.
<strong><u>Diving</u></strong> This will be the fourth Summer Games for the 27-year-old diver from Laval, Que. He has won silver in the men's three-metre springboard at the last two Games but his preparation took a major blow in mid-June when he hit his head on the diving board while training in Spain.
<strong><u>Triathlon</u></strong> The 2000 Olympic triathlon champion is still going strong at age 37. After winning gold at the Sydney Olympics, Whitfield struggled at the 2004 Games in Athens before bouncing back with a silver medal four years later in Beijing. The Victoria resident has ramped up his training regimen this year to hang with the youngsters on the Olympic course in London.
<strong><u>Tennis</u></strong> Expect to hear some oohs and aahs when Raonic steps on court at the All-England Club. He has a rocket of a serve and the game to back it up. Raonic has posted victories over some of the game's top players this season. The 21-year-old from Thornhill, Ont., could make a splash at the home of Wimbledon.
<strong><u>Swimming</u></strong> Cochrane is one of the best bets for a podium appearance among Canadian swimmers. The 23-year-old from Victoria, who won bronze in the 1,500-metre freestyle four years ago, will compete in the 1,500 and 400-metre freestyle events in London. Cochrane holds national records at both distances.
<strong><u>Gymnastics</u></strong> The trampoline veteran has reached the podium at every Olympics since the event was added to the program at the Sydney Games in 2000. The 31-year-old Toronto native is hoping her fourth Games will bring her that elusive Olympic gold medal. Cockburn is known for her strong flight times, which could give her a slight edge in London since the height of an athlete's jumps will now be factored into the overall score.
<strong><u>Cycling</u></strong> She's pushing 40 and showing no signs of slowing down. Hughes, who has reached the speedskating podium at the last three Winter Games, will be back on the bike in London. It's her first appearance at the Summer Olympics since the Sydney Games in 2000. The Winnipeg native won two bronze medals in road cycling at the 1996 Atlanta Games.
<strong><u>Boxing</u></strong> First came the wakeup call and then a near-knockout blow. Spencer, a three-time world boxing champion, suffered her first defeat in over a year last April and followed it up a month later with an upset loss in her first bout at the world championships. The 27-year-old Wiarton, Ont., native qualified for London as a wild-card entry. She hopes to return to the form that saw her win gold at the Pan-Am Games last fall.