ALBERTA

Alberta Health Expenses Under Fire After Wildrose Uncovers More Questionable Billing

04/24/2013 12:16 EDT | Updated 04/24/2013 12:16 EDT
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The questionable expenses claimed by a Alberta health executive with the province's former health region are coming under scrutiny.. again.

Documents released by the opposition Wildrose show former Capital Health region vice-president Michele Lahey billed taxpayers for thousands of dollars in donations made to gala fundraisers and luxury dining.

According to the Edmonton Journal, Lahey expensed $4,300 for the St. Joseph's Annual Gala Fundraiser in 2005. She also expensed $3,000 for St. Joseph's College Gala, $1,200 for the Hope Foundation of Alberta in 2005 and $1,700 for the Friar's Ball in 2006.

The Calgary Sun reports Lahey's husband, former provincial Crown prosecutor Bill Gatward, made the donations between 2005 and 2007. Lahey expensed the claims and former Capital Health CEO Sheila Weatherhill approved them.

“Is the premier or anyone else disgusted by that?” Smith asked.

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Outrageous Alberta Health Expenses

Premier Alison Reford intitially dismissed the claims, reports the Journal, but later said the province would investigate.

“I will not stand in this house and concede that all of the suggestions made by the opposition are somehow accurate simply because they said them. It’s entirely appropriate to raise these issues. There’s no reason for us not to look into them, and we will," she said.

Lahey came under fire earlier this month when it was discovered medical treatment she received in the U.S. was paid by taxpayers.

Weatherhill, who approved the expenses at the time, has agreed to pay back the province in excess of $7,500 for the trip.

"As CEO at the time, I take responsibility for this extraordinary event and I apologize to the people of Alberta," she said last week.

In Tuesday's question period, the Wildrose also released documents showing another health executive who expensed a $4,000, eight-day retreat.

Wildrose Leader Danielle Smith questioned why then vice-president for the Calgary Health Region, Joanne Stalinski, was allowed to bill the public for her time spent at the Hoffman Institute - a personal discovery and development organization.

“The Hoffman Process gives you emotional tools to allow you to have the choice to let go of many limiting belief systems so that you can enjoy the banquet of life instead of just settling for the crumbs,” the website says, describing its program as a review of the first 12 years of childbood to see how and why participants have become like their parents.

Finance Minister Doug Horner told legislature the province is looking into whether expenses can be recouped for health regions that have since been incoporated into Alberta Health Services.

“We need legal advice as to whether or not you can actually recoup expense from an organization that no longer exists,” Horner said.

“Coming to the present, again, this government, this premier have instituted the toughest expense policies and disclosures of any jurisdiction in Canada, and we are very proud of that.”

Redford told the Journal to attack the current government over past actions is unfair.

“To sort of tar and feather this government with that system is ridiculous, because we created a different system, we created a different set of rules with respect to expense guidelines, we’ve changed the administration and the governance of AHS,” Redford said. “To somehow suggest that this government would defend those actions is ridiculous.”